Fruits vs. Veggies: Are They “Nutritionally Equivalent?”

As I was researching the topic of how to encourage kids to eat more vegetables, I kept running across statements that fruits and vegetables were basically interchangeable, like this one from child feeding expert Ellyn Satter’s site.

Fruits and vegetables carry the same nutrients, so a child can be well-nourished on either.”

I’m currently reading Ellyn Satter’s book “Child of Mine,” about feeding children, and finding it full of good insight. I like her philosophy, and I’m not trying to call her out by checking the validity of her statement. Many many great nutritionists offer a similar reassurance to parents who worry about their child’s aversion to vegetables. Dietician Jill Castle did in her comment on my veggie post. (I love her blog, by the way – full of good feeding advice – and she’s working on a book!) Any good child feeding expert will tell parents to, above all, not worry too much about whether their child eats vegetables or even fruits for that matter. Don’t worry, because there is only so much you can do (which I outlined in my post), but beyond that, you can’t force a child to eat anything. Having any emotional investment in that idea will almost certainly backfire. So telling parents that fruits are basically as good as vegetables helps them relax at the dinner table, which is a good thing.

But, being the nutrition nerd that I am, I wondered about this purported “nutritional equivalence” of fruits and vegetables and wanted to look at the numbers myself. Continue reading

How Can I Encourage My Baby or Toddler to Eat More Vegetables?

This post is my answer to a friend’s concern about her 11-month-old, who refuses to eat most vegetables. It is such a universal concern that, with her permission, I turned it into a blog post. She writes:

“My 11-month-old is a pretty good eater when it comes to everything but veggies. He can sift through a bite in his mouth and spit out only the vegetables. I am trying not to add salt or oil or cheese to the vegetables, but he hates them! (Sweet potatoes/yams are okay, and once in a while peas, too.) Any suggestions on how to incorporate vegetables into his diet?”

I think just about every parent wishes her child would eat more vegetables. We found that BabyC became much more selective about what she ate right around 11 months, and there was a noticeable drop in her vegetable intake at that time.

When all else fails, put veggies on the floor. BabyC finds food on the floor more trust-worthy and interesting than food on her high chair tray.

We all want our kids to eat well today (or at least on average over the week), but we also want them to form healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Are there any strategies we can use to get our babies and toddlers to eat more vegetables? Luckily, there is a ton of interesting research on this topic. Continue reading