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A prescription for nutrition: Doctors write Rx for fruits and veggies

Dr. Paavani Komanduri

In an effort to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables, doctors at HealthPartners clinics in the Twin Cities and St. Croix Valley areas are busting out their prescribing pads.

Through July 31 children getting a wellness exam can receive a "prescription" good for $10 of fresh produce at Cub Foods and other local grocers. The aim is to get kids excited about fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Paavani Komanduri practices internal medicine at HealthPartners Woodbury Clinic. We asked her to explain the Fruits and Veggie Rx program and why it is important for children to eat a variety of fresh produce.

What's the thinking behind a "prescription" for fruits and vegetables? How powerful is that Rx sheet?

By providing a "prescription," it emphasizes that fruits and veggies are not just a good idea but a needed part of every child's diet. In addition to giving the recommendations weight, the Rx sheet can add an element of excitement for children to seek out fruits and vegetables which is especially helpful for picky eaters. By adding a prescription along with the conversation, it also helps to keep the message in the front of people's minds while shopping.

Why is it important for children to eat fruits and vegetables?

Whole fruits and veggie add essential fiber, vitamins and minerals to a diet. By having fiber, they add a sense of fullness and satisfaction that more processed foods and juices may lack. The relatively lower calories mean that kids can enjoy larger helpings without worrying about overeating. Starting kids out with a variety of options when they are young can help to establish healthy habits from a young age that set the stage for healthy eating as an adult.

What are some good produce options, especially for children who are picky eaters?

Generally, kids like salty and sweet. Like all of us, more bitter foods can be an acquired taste. Starting out with roasted veggies can help add that salty satisfaction. Sweeter veggies like carrots and squash are also a nice choice for children. Picky eaters may have one or two foods that really speak to them. Trying to branch out to similar foods can be a way to expand their variety. For example, if they enjoy lettuce, adding a small amount of spinach can get them used to a new taste while still having a taste they enjoy. Purees added to favorite foods are a good option as well if they are very picky to pack in the extra nutrition.

What else can parents do to ensure their children are getting enough nutrition?

Giving kids a variety is really key. This applies to all foods. With fruits and veggies, adding a variety of colors over the week can help ensure the right mix of nutrition. Offering kids foods they did not enjoy previously can also help to add variety. Kids can go through stages of taste and might enjoy foods at an older age that they rejected before. In addition to fruits and veggies, making sure they get a variety of foods is important. The only restriction is sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, juice, etc.) which are firmly in the special treat category with candy.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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