Promoting a higher vegetable intake in children at school

Good food and nutrition is one of the best ways to prevent and manage many of the major lifestyle diseases that affect Australians today. It has been found that a high intake of saturated fat and a low intake of vegetables and fruit are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and diseases of the eye such as cataract.

Recent surveys show that only around 7% of Australians are eating enough vegetables. Protection against the lifestyle diseases listed above is offered by the many different antioxidants and phytochemicals found in plant foods. By eating vegetables that contain protective phytochemicals, it is possible to decrease one’s risk of developing lifestyle diseases.
 

How can you promote a higher vegetable intake to school children?

Quite simply, use vegetables in a fun, encouraging way to help children accept them as ‘friendly foods’.
 

Younger children
  • Start a school or class vegetable garden, and be sure to let the children be involved in planning and maintaining the garden.

  • Grow a vegetable (e.g. green beans or tomatoes) as a science experiment, and help the children measure how much the vegetable grows each week.

  • Talk to children about their favourite vegetables.

  • Have a fun lunch day and have the children make their own sandwiches using different fillings that include a wide variety of vegetables.

  • Use vegetables for fun – try creating potato stamps, or making animals out of chopped and sliced vegetables and toothpicks during art class.

Older children
  • Ask students to record the different types of vegetables they eat in one week, and to discuss how the vegetables were prepared.
  • Talk about the health benefits of eating vegetables, including clearer skin and beating fatigue and stress.

  • Talk about what influences children’s food choices when it comes to eating vegetables, for example, role modelling parents’ choices; food availability and cost; advertising; cultural influences.

  • Have a class or school barbeque and include a variety of locally grown vegetables (if possible) in the menu. Why not have competitions for the most innovative vegetable recipes?

  • Plan a multicultural food day, and discuss the different ways that vegetables are prepared in different cultures.

 

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