‘Eat the rainbow’: Advice on how to get kids to follow new USDA dietary guidelines

Meat and vegetable skewers on the grill
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Grilled skewers of seasonal vegetables and sizzling meat? Sounds like summer!

MADISON, Wis. — For the first time ever, the USDA has included babies and toddlers in its dietary guidelines. The guidelines provide a foundation for federal nutrition programs for the next 5 years.

The department also encourages people to put a special focus on ensuring that they enjoy and customize nutrient-rich foods for their personal preferences, taking cultural traditions and budget into consideration. However, it now recommends children under the age of two should avoid all added sugar and limit saturated fat.

But that can seem like a difficult task for many families.

Megan Timm, Community Health Manager at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Janesville, said parents should encourage their kids to “eat the rainbow.” And that doesn’t mean Skittles. It means nutrient-rich foods of all different colors.

She said each color has it’s own health benefits. For example, red foods help reduce risk for diabetes, certain types of cancer and heart disease. Orange and yellow foods promote eye and joint health. Leafy greens and green foods are high in fiber and give an energy boost, while blue, purple or deep red foods are great for memory and boost brain power.

Timm had some tips on how to get your kids to eat more healthy foods.

“Add health fruits and vegetables in your child’s snack or lunches. This can include quick things like dried fruits or even on the go apple sauce,” she said. “Add them to your child’s favorite dishes. This could include adding carrots to pasta sauce or canned or frozen veggies into soups.”

Timm said parents should also get kids to be part of the process by maybe letting them choose a new fruit or vegetable every week. That will help ensure that they continue to make healthy choices as they grow.