Every year in March, the American Dietetic Association sponsors National Nutrition Month, a campaign that promotes the importance of making sound food choices and developing a healthy lifestyle. This year’s theme, Eat Right With Color, encourages people to include an assortment of fruits and vegetables on their plates everyday, since brightly-colored produce is loaded with a range of good-for-you nutrients and antioxidants. Here, how the different colors work to boost health–plus some tips for how to get kids excited to eat (or at least try!) their fruits and veggies.
Green produce gets its color from the plant pigment chlorophyll, which may help speed up the body’s healing process by improving immune function. Foods like kiwis and broccoli are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that may help protect against cardiovascular disease.
Get your kids on board: Your child can dunk her broccoli “trees” in hummus, or plan a “New Food Night,” where she can help come up with a dinner menu that includes one new green fruit or veggie every week.
Red fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called lycopene, found in fruits like pink grapefruit, tomato, and watermelon. Lycopene may help reduce the risk of several types of cancers, as well as diabetes.
Get your kids on board: Invite your child to help make homemade salsa—add different vegetables to make it more colorful, then scoop it in tacos or on top of nachos for a Mexican-themed dinner.
Purple and blue foods like blueberries and eggplant get their color from antioxidants called anthocyanins. These may help prevent heart disease and cancer, and provide anti-aging benefits like improved memory function.
Get your kids on board: Encourage your child to play with his food by using blackberries and blueberries to have kids make silly faces on pancakes, French toast, or in a bowl of yogurt.
Orange and deep yellow produce like apricots, carrots, and sweet potatoes, are packed with carotenoids like beta-carotene, which is known for helping to maintain healthy vision.
Get your kids on board: Try making oven-baked sweet potato fries for a healthy alternative to French fries. Drizzle them with olive oil and seasonings of your choice—and your kid’ll be guaranteed to eat them up.
White, tan, and brown foods get their light coloring from pigments called anthoxanthins. These antioxidants, found in foods like bananas, mushrooms, onions, and cauliflower, may help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stomach cancer and heart disease.
Get your kids on board: Cook brown rice with onions, then enlist your child to help stuff the filling into mushroom caps.
For more information on National Nutrition Month, head over to The American Dietetic Association’s website, where you’ll find plenty of great recipes and ideas that are both healthy and kid-friendly (eatright.org/nnr).