Why Variety Is Key In Your Child's (And Your) Diet

I am writing this post as much for you as I am for me! I need the reminder because a picky two-year-old and variety are basically oxymorons. This information holds true for adults too.

Why Variety Is Key In Your Child's (And Your) Diet

More and more research points to the fact that diversity of gut bacteria is what makes a healthy microbiome. You achieve a diverse microbiome by consuming different fruits and vegetables, as each different plant feeds different subsets of bacteria.

As a reminder, we want our kids to have as strong a microbiome (gut) as possible as research shows gut health influences everything from the immune system to blood sugar and obesity to the risk of chronic disease.

The other reason to provide variety in your household is simply that kids learn by example. Don’t forget too that it can take up to 14 exposures to a food for a child to like it. That’s like a year of serving broccoli and them *finally* deciding they want to eat some. It is frustrating, in my experience, and requires a lot of patience!

Ok, back to variety and diverstiy in your diet.

An incredible target to aim for is 30 different plant-based foods, ideally fruits and vegetables, per week. Now, before you fall off your chair, keep in mind that different varieties of the same food counts (i.e. red onion is different from a white onion). Fresh herbs also count! If you break this down by day, this could be ~4-5 different fruits and vegetables a day, a very realistic target and one I challenge my clients to aim for too.

Here’s what a target week could look like:

Fruits (7):

  • Blueberries, raspberries, canned pears and peaches (since we’re in winter), apples, bananas
  • Avocados

Leafy Greens (2):

  • Spinach, kale (typically in smoothies)

Herbs (2):

  • Parsley (in falafels or bean burgers), basil (in pesto)

Cruciferous Veggies (4):

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, purple cabbage, Brussels sprouts (typically all roasted)

Other Veggies (15):

  • Garlic, white onion, red onion (great for more flavour in dishes)
  • Tomatoes (cherry and large and in salsa)
  • Carrots (we slow cook them in our bone broth)
  • Bell peppers (we buy a bag of orange, red and yellow)
  • Squash (butternut, spaghetti squash, zucchini, roasted)
  • Cucumber, celery (chopped for snacks)
  • Peas (not our faves but Sophie digs them)

Stews, soups and curries are a great way to knock off 5-6 veggies all in one dish.

Not every week will be this good, and it can work well to have 10 or so that are always in your rotation out of ease, and then switch up the rest each week. Eating seasonally also helps with the grocery bill cost. Let’s also remember that just because I’m listing these doesn’t mean Sophie is always eating them - it’s a work in progress. But we serve them and it’s her choice to consume them.

In the Munchkin Menus Recipe E-book (or print version), we focus on easy ways to introduce more veggies and variety into your child’s diet. This book is perfect if you’ve got a little one eating solids and you want to focus on providing nutrient dense options that they will love. In fact, these recipes are what I fed Sophie from about 9-18 months, and we continue to eat lots of them. Click here to purchase your copy.

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