Q. I know experts have established "recommended" daily amounts of fruits and vegetables for children, but we frequently fall short. I'm wondering if there is a "bare minimum" amount kids should eat daily?
A. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendations for daily fruits and vegetables vary by a child's age. It's calculated by experts who consider the recommended daily intake of various nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, says Suzette Smookler, administrator for clinical nutrition and education at Stony Brook University Medical Center. (Check the RDI for your child's age at bit.ly/xp 4nJI.)
"The average mom isn't going to go out and try to figure out if the child is eating the RDI for every vitamin and every mineral. That's really over-the-top," Smookler says. Averaging it by recommending a certain number of cups of fruits and vegetables per day simplifies things, she says. If your child is eating the recommended amount, he's likely getting all the recommended daily nutrients, she says.
Unfortunately there isn't a "bare minimum" you can console yourself with, she says. You could add vitamins to your child's diet to help meet daily recommendations, but Smookler doesn't consider that the best solution, as your child won't get the fiber and other added benefits of eating the food.
A better approach is to redouble efforts to meet the recommendations, she says. Visit a bookstore to find cookbooks with tricks for sneaking good food into kids' diets; fruitand veggieguru.com also has tips.