New Initiative to Increase Fruit Consumption in Children

betta_7475In a push to increase fruit consumption in children, the United Kingdom’s largest grocery chain, Tesco, has implemented a program offering free fruit to children while their parents shop. Just like the United States Department of Agriculture, the UK government recommends everyone, including children, eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Unfortunately, like the US, children in the UK fall short of this recommendation with only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11-18 consuming 5 fruits and vegetables each day; only 2% of American kids eat the recommended daily five servings of fruits and veggies. The Tesco initiative is being launched in over 800 stores and is already receiving praise from experts and charities. But, will it work?

Well, that’s hard to say. Last year, a study from the University of Vermont found that school children required by federal mandate to take either a fruit or vegetable with lunch actually consumed less of each. Digital imaging was used to capture student lunch trays before and after consumption, and more produce was actually thrown away. Does this mean we should stop encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption? Of course not. But what it does mean is that multiple approaches may be better at achieving increased consumption. The study authors suggest slicing fruit, serving fruit/vegetables with dip, or mixing the produce in with other portions of the meal. Likewise, encouraging fruit and veggie consumption from an earlier age and increasing access and positivity in the environment, such as farm-to-school programs, may help normalize eating healthfully.

Only time will tell how the UK initiative will fare. I believe we all agree, however, that the first step is always to offer healthful choices!

Read more about the study here: http://www.uvm.edu/~uvmpr/?Page=news&&storyID=21298

Variety is Key!

Kids need nutrients to grow healthy bodies.

I’ve heard it a million times, “My kid just doesn’t like vegetables!” It seems to me that there is an epidemic of confusion concerning how to eat healthfully, and it seems to starts early in life. I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want what was best for his or her child, so listen up! A study came out earlier this year with some good tips on how to get your children to not only eat their vegetables, but to like them, too.

When infants are first offered complementary foods, around 6 months of age, a study published in the journal Appetite found that increasing the variety of vegetables offered markedly improved an infant’s acceptance. A group of 60 mothers were randomized to an intervention group that offered five different vegetables during the first 15 days of weaning; the infants consumed unfamiliar vegetables followed by unfamiliar fruits and were assessed at a taste test one month later. The infants exposed to the variety of vegetables ate significantly more, and were rated by mothers and researchers as liking the vegetables significantly more. As expected, the liking of fruit was similar between the control and intervention groups. So what does this mean for you? Increase variety in your kids’ diets, offer unfamiliar foods with foods they like (fruit!), and be a good role model – eat your fruits and veggies, too!

FILDES, A.; WARDLE, J.; COOKE, L. Early exposure to vegetable variety on infants’ like and consumption. The TASTE intervention study. Appetite. May2014, Vol. 76, p210-210.

Little Green Pouch: Pear and Kid Approved!

I love pears for lots of reasons, but I’m especially fond of their widespread appeal. It’s fun to be able to strike up a conversation with almost anyone about pears—my grandpa, a kindergartner, the cashier at my grocery store. They’re just so lovable!

Pears are especially kid-friendly. They’re a hypoallergenic food, and with their soft texture, they’re easily pureed into sauce, smoothies, and soups. I recently received a complimentary pack of Little Green Pouches, a reusable food pouch like those you’ve seen popping up at Starbucks and grocery stores near you. This ingenious little food pouch is the perfect vehicle for pureed pears. I sent the pack to my sister, Aubrey, who offered to test the Little Green Pouch with her sidekick and babysitting charge Ellie.

Ellie, 2, was an instant fan of the combo. Here’s Aubrey’s report:

Aubrey: “Ellie, what do you think of the green pouch? Do you like it?”
Ellie: “Yeah! It’s really cool, Aubrey!”
I asked Ellie how she liked the pear yogurt mixture.
Ellie: “It tastes like ice cream and vanilla and pears!”

I went to pour more mixture into the green pouch over the sink and she frantically yelled at me to not pour it down the sink and to save it in the fridge for later.

She was very satisfied with the pouch and pears!

Recipe:

½-1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 pear

Pear and quarter the pear and boil in water until soft.
Mash it into the yogurt and serve!

Check out the Little Green Pouch website for pouch-friendly recipes and more information.

A Hearty Solution

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

Young children are consuming larger than healthful amounts of sodium according to current research presented via the American Heart Association.1 Nearly 75% of packaged meals and snacks designed for children ages 1 to 3 years are high in sodium; some meals contain 40% of a toddler’s daily limit for sodium! Although packaged and processed foods are notorious for high sodium content, these results are striking since large amounts of sodium early in life may increase preference for salty foods and excess salt consumption is directly linked to high blood pressure. Indeed, about one in three adults (31.9%) over the age of 20 has hypertension, or high blood pressure, which increases risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.2  

Although these data are alarming, there is a simple solution: Decrease processed food consumption by adding more fresh fruits and veggies every day. A diet high in fresh or plain, frozen fruits and vegetables protects the heart.3 Keep it simple! Make more fresh foods at home, starting with fruits and veggies as the foundation for every meal. Add or mix in fruits or veggies to foods your family already loves, such as sandwiches, cereals, and sauces. Need an even simpler solution? Add one piece of fruit as a snack each day and you’re one bite closer to heart health!

1    American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/127/12_MeetingAbstracts/AP253?sid=9a73903b-2517-4164-b859-ff621b4749cd
2    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 data http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/hyprtens.htm
3    Circulation, American Heart Association http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/127/12_MeetingAbstracts/A001?sid=bbf3aeff-f191-4aa0-803a-ea58f2ff4bfd

Kids + Pears

Prepare for cuteness: photos of little kids and pears!  Photo contests are always fun to see how people get creative.  This year in St. Petersburg, Russia, we held a contest with a parenting website, asking moms and dads to show us how their kiddos enjoy USA Pears.  Some shots were candid, while others were posed, but all results were adorable!

As proven by these shots, kids and pears go great together, and we’ve got kid friendly recipes, nutrition information, and our brand new Pear World kids’ website for you to explore with your little ones!

Russia Kids & Pears Contest

Pear Love


One of our pear growers, Jeff McNerney, sent us these adorable pictures of his nephew this week. He is such a doll…I couldn’t resist sharing!

Jeff says, “Here’s our nephew Kellen Goss eating an Anjou last week. My wife Cassandra baby sits him on Fridays and he always prefers the pears over his vegetables. The only problem is his mom always changes more diapers after he’s been visiting his pear farmer uncle’s place!”

 

Stay tuned for more kid-friendly fare in the coming weeks! And if you haven’t already, check out our brand-new kids website, Pear World!

How do the kids in your life enjoy pears?

USDA to Add More Fruits and Vegetables to School Lunches

Approximately 32 million children eat school lunch every day. With few updates to nutrition requirements over the last 15 years, these U.S. schoolchildren are about to see some big improvements! Since almost 1 in 3 children ages 6-19 in the United States is overweight or obese, it’s fitting that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has chosen to focus on increasing fruits and vegetables to limit obesity. As part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the portion of fruits and vegetables served to children will double at each meal; fruits and vegetables contain energy, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water, necessary nutrients to enhance the health and wellbeing of every child. Additionally, only low-fat milk (nonfat or 1%) will be available, more whole grains will be offered, portions will be more appropriate, and there will be reductions in sodium, trans fat, and saturated fat.

Nutrition and education are inherently linked; improved nutritional status in children will improve academic performance and allow students to engage in more physical activity, another important step to reducing the current obesity rate. The school environment, whether it’s the classroom or the lunchroom, is a learning environment! It is important to educate children that fruits and vegetables are the normal, healthy way to eat.

Fruit du Jour: Fresh Pears!

I recently attended the School Nutrition Association annual conference; the conference featured innovative approaches to healthy school meals, as well as an immense exhibit hall of food and preparation products. I spent my time in the exhibit hall, encouraging nutrition professionals to use more fresh produce with the USA Pears salad bar, a unique and delicious way to offer fresh cut pears; however, as a dietitian, the sheer number of processed foods showcased at the expo was disheartening.

Having worked in a large school district, I understand how difficult it can be to prepare and offer fresh meals that meet nutrition guidelines, children’s often picky taste buds, and staff time and labor constraints. Dietitians know that children will select foods higher in saturated fat and calories if they are offered,¹ but that children exposed to and educated about fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat and enjoy them.² Learning does not only occur in the classroom; the school cafeteria is also a learning environment! An easy way to spice up the lunch line or box is with cut fruit. Studies suggest that produce preparation does influence a child’s likelihood of consumption; in other words, children are more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables if they are cut up rather than served as whole pieces.³ This is especially true for smaller children!

Mealtime is learning time. Adding more fresh foods not only meets requirements, but teaches children how to enjoy healthful foods. Why not cut a pear today?

¹http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20668251

²http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19439567

³http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16256763

Kids in the Kitchen

Mexico-Kid-Chefs

These adorable budding chefs in Mexico have the right idea – “pear”-ing USA Pears with summer fruit for a refreshing snack or side dish!  You and your kiddos can also enjoy Pear Kabobs with Strawberry Dipping Sauce, and the recipe is so simple that they can help put it all together.  Check out more kid-friendly recipes here!

Pear-Kababs-w-Strawberry-Dipping-Sauce

Pear Kabobs with Strawberry Dipping Sauce
A fruity interpretation of the traditional kabob, this treat is as fun to make as it is to eat! Makes a pear-fect after-school snack!

Ingredients
1 cup vanilla yogurt
4 tablespoons strawberry preserves
2 Green or Red Anjou USA Pears, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 bananas, cut into 1-inch slices
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
2 cups strawberries, stems removed
6 wooden skewers

Directions
In a small bowl, combine the vanilla yogurt and strawberry preserves. Set aside.

Thread the fruits by alternating the pears, bananas, pineapple, and strawberries onto the skewers.

Serve the fruit skewers with a dollop of the strawberry sauce on the side.

preparation time: 15 minutes
yield: Serves 6

Preference for Pears

Recent research published in the journal Appetite found that preschool children prefer the tastes of salt, sugar and fat and they equate these taste preferences to specific brand foods.

The study focused on 3 to 5 year old children who responded to how tasty they found specific foods, both familiar “natural” (fruits and vegetables) and familiar “flavor-added” foods (soda, chips, etc.); children preferred the processed foods. The second portion of the study found that recognition of fast food and soda brands is linked to the development of a preference for sugar, fat and salt. Since taste preference develops at home, these results suggest that when parents frequently expose children to processed and convenience foods, children develop a taste specifically for those choices.

Particularly in light of the current obesity epidemic, these data stress the importance of offering healthful choices to children from the beginning, so as taste preferences develop, preferences are developed for healthier choices. Indeed, infants start solids by eating plain foods – cereals, vegetables, fruit, and meats. As infants grow into children, it is just as important to continue offering these healthful choices and not adding unnecessary sugar, fat and salt. Helping your children eat well starts by repeatedly offering fruits and vegetables from the beginning!