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Children's health

08th Jan 2022

Research shows children who eat more vegetables have better mental health

Trine Jensen-Burke

children who eat more vegetables have better mental health

Food for thought. And then some.

We all know that eating more plant foods, and especially fruit and vegetables are beneficial to our physical health. However, recent studies have shown that it might not just be our physical health that can improve by upping our intake of greens.

A recent report in BMJ Nutrition linked higher fruit and vegetable consumption with better mental wellbeing in school-aged kids.

Yep, that’s right. Fruits and vegetables can give us better mental health, not just make our bodies healthier.

In fact, the research showed that children who eat five or more portions of fruits and veggies per day had the highest scores for mental wellbeing.

The study, which was the first of its kind to look at the link between intake of produce on kids’ mental health, the authors say.

The researchers examined the effects of produce on 7,570 secondary school and 1,253 primary school students. Only 25.2% of older kids and 28.5% of primary school children ate the recommended five fruits and veggies per day.

When they looked at nutrition and wellbeing variables, they noticed the standout factor: There was power in the produce.

Mental wellbeing scores surged higher the more servings of fruits and veggies that the children had; that is, those who had five or more portions per day had higher well-being scores compared to those who only had three or four (and those students had higher scores compared to kids who only ate one or two servings).

“While the links between nutrition and physical health are well understood, until now, not much has been known about whether nutrition plays a part in children’s emotional wellbeing,” said Ailsa Welch, a professor of nutritional epidemiology at The University of East Anglia Medical School, in a statement.

Simple tricks to help your kids eat more fruits and vegetables

Make it fun: Green smoothies can be Monster Juice, porridge with blueberries can be Purple Porridge, Superman Smoothie bowls are bound to go down a treat – with kids, the more creative you can be with what you call things, the more tempting it will sound to their ears.

Double up: Serving a larger portion of veggies was shown to help children eat more – it can really be that simple.

Cut it up: Studies have shown that cup up and peeled pieces of fruits and veggies are more tempting to kids, and will make them reach for it more often.

Let them add stuff: So what if your kids like to drench their broccoli in ketchup? If it makes them eat it, does it really matter?

Keep serving it: Some kids may need to see a food several times to decide if they’re going to eat it. In fact, some children need as many as eight to 15 exposures of a food to accept it—but we often give up long before that.

Sneak it in: Try adding a fruit or veggie at breakfast (something like sliced strawberries or raisins, or scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese.