UW Health: Growing minds require more fruits and vegetables during the school year

Students need to eat more fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins to energize their growing minds as the school year begins.
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2022 at 6:52 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Students need to eat more fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins to energize their growing minds as the school year begins.

UW Health Pediatric Clinical Nutritionist Camila Martin said 90% of kids don’t eat enough vegetables. Martin said adding fruits and vegetables to a child’s diet can be simple because it doesn’t always have to be fresh--frozen fruits and veggies suffice.

She said that frozen broccoli, peas, corn and mangos can be healthier because the nutrients are frozen while at its highest quality. Plus, frozen food items are cheaper and last longer.

”They’re more shelf stable, tend to be more available and tend to be less expensive,” Martin said. ”If something is frozen it tends to be frozen at peak ripeness so it can actually be even more nutritious than fresh. It essentially pauses that food at that ideal condition. So when something is in the freezer it’s stopping those breakdowns of cells from happening.”

Madison mother of two Katherine McMahon said preparing healthy food can be a challenge, especially when trying to keep fruit fresh.

”In the case of my children who are pretty picky, they like really fresh fruit and vegetables,” McMahon said. “So when it’s a little bit overripe or dented and stuff it can be hard to get them to eat it.”

McMahon said it is harder to get her children in the swing of a more structured meal plan during school, after a more lenient summer schedule.

”They just will snack,” she said. “So getting back on the three meals a day is kind of a tricky thing.”

Martin recommended starting each morning with a healthy breakfast including whole grain cereal, low-fat milk, eggs and a fruit serving. She said five servings of fruit and vegetables is the best way to provide nutrients for students to excel their best at school.

McMahon plans to shift her kids back into school-mode with a big breakfast so they have enough energy to make it through the day.

Martin said it is important to involve your kids in the meal preparation process. Parents should give children vegetable options and let them decide which one to eat for each specific meal. Martin said this helps kids build a healthy relationship with food from an early age.