As you are probably aware, fruits and vegetables provide tons of vitamins and minerals that help your body run properly. We know that it can be difficult to get access to sufficient amounts of these, or you may not know how to use them in your diet. Perhaps you or your child is picky and there aren't many fruits and veggies you like. We'll talk a little bit about that here.
First, how many fruits and vegetables do you need to eat each day?
Children should eat about 1-1.5 cups of vegetables, and 1-1.5 cups of fruits daily.
Adults should eat about 2-3 cups of vegetables, and 2 cups of fruits daily.
Check out this page for more details about vegetable intake: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables
Check out this page for more details about fruit intake:
Are you and/or your child a picky eater?
You're not alone. A lot of people don't like many vegetables. Fruits are usually a bit more popular, but some people just don't like produce very much in general. This can be the case for many different reasons. Perhaps you had negative experiences eating vegetables as a kid. Maybe you find the flavor bland and boring. Maybe you don't know where to start with preparing your vegetables and that is overwhelming. And maybe your child always turns their nose up at what you're making and you don't want to have to plead with them, again, to just try one bite.
All of these things can be a lot to deal with. Some days (and if we're being honest, some weeks) will be really difficult if you or your kids are picky with produce. This will likely feel like a platitude, but it really does pay off to keep trying and take it one day (or one meal) at a time. So let's go over some things you can do to start your journey to eating enough fruits and veggies.
Offer produce at every meal. The more you and your kids are exposed to a food, the more likely you will be to give it a try. After enough tries, you may even start to like them! (Remember, it can take 20, that's right, 20 (!) tries before a kid will even give a new food a chance). The point is - don't give up!
Mix veggies in with foods you already like. Combining foods like this can make them more appealing.
Add veggies to fruit smoothies. The flavor of the fruit will mask the flavor of the vegetables, and you won't even know they're there. Over time you can increase the amount of veggies in the smoothies and you probably won't notice the difference.
Try roasting vegetables. This gives them a different texture than boiled vegetables, and you can really play around with flavorings.
Try grilling vegetables (and fruits too!) in the summer.
Put the bowl of vegetables in the middle of the table at meal times. Let your kids serve themselves. Giving them autonomy and ownership over what they're eating can make them more willing to try that food.
Sit down as a family for meal times. Show your kids that you like the vegetables (or are willing to try them too). This will set a positive example for them. When the whole family is on board and doing things like trying new foods together, it can encourage everyone to make improvements.
If you take your kids shopping, let them pick out some produce they want to try. Getting them involved in this choice can make them more likely to try the new food at meal times.
Don't force your kids to eat! This can create negative feelings around the food, and can make picky eating worse. You're doing your job by offering the food. It's up to your child to give it a try. This is called the "Division of Responsibility" (More on this in the next section)
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many other ways you can encourage your kids to try new foods, but it can be hard to think of those things in the moment when picky eating arises. Hopefully the ideas above can be a starting point, something you can refer back to when you're at a loss for what to do.
No matter what, remember that you are a great parent, and you are not alone. Picky eating, especially with fruits and vegetables, is an all to common issue for a lot of families. If you are looking for further tips and guidance, talk with your WIC nutritionist during your appointments. We are here to help.
The Division of Responsibility
Your WIC nutritionist may mention something called the Division of Responsibility during your appointment. This comes up when picky eating is an issue. It focuses on two guiding principles:
It is your responsibility to decide what, when, and where your child eats.
It is your child's responsibility to choose how much they will eat of what you offer, and if they are going to eat it at all.
So, let's say you offer a great, balanced meal that includes a vegetable, lean protein, whole grain, and some low fat dairy. Your child eats everything except the vegetable and the whole grain. Maybe they don't eat ANY of the meal.
What do you do? Do you....
force your child to sit at the table until they finish the plate
pick up a fork and start feeding them yourself
make a special alternative that they've requested in place of the food they didn't want
throw the food out
Do any of these things sound familiar? They probably do, and you're not alone. It is incredibly frustrating when you've made a healthy meal and your child won't eat it. It feels like a waste. You're probably scared they aren't getting the nutrition they need. Maybe you've considered giving them something like Pediasure to make sure they don't go hungry or miss out on important vitamins and minerals.
These are all understandable feelings and actions. However, you are fulfilling your end of the Division of Responsibility by providing the healthy, balanced meal. Over time, your child will learn to eat what you are offering if you don't give in and make them something special or force them to eat, thus creating negative experiences around that food.
What can you do instead?
Save the food for later. Cover it and put it in the refrigerator. When your child comes back later saying they're hungry, reheat the food and offer it again.
Don't make special alternatives. This teaches your child that they can hold out for the food they want instead.
Don't offer things like Pediasure if your child doesn't eat a meal. Pediasure has its place, but this is for children who are underweight or have medical reasons for drinking it. Being picky for one meal (or even a few meals) will not cause a nutrient deficiency. Offering sugary, fun drinks like Pediasure, will cause your child to prefer that flavor over the more bland (and more natural) flavor of whole foods.
This feeding philosophy can take time to get used to - for both you and your child. Not every day will be a success. Some days you may have so much going on that this will feel like just one more thing to do and you may revert to old habits. That is valid, and we understand. We encourage you to give it a try though, and take it one day at a time. The Division of Responsibility has been shown to work. The more you practice, the easier it gets, and ultimately it leads to easier mealtimes and less stress all around.
Ask your WIC nutritionist about this at your next appointment. They can provide support and encouragement as your try this new approach.
Now let's talk about your produce benefits on the WIC food package:
WIC provides fresh, frozen, and canned fruit and vegetable options for children and adults, and pureed and fresh fruits and vegetables for infants 6 months and older. We aim to help supplement your grocery bill so it is easier for you to purchase produce and get the nutrients you need. We can also provide referrals to food banks and SNAP (also known as food stamps) if you need further assistance.
Additionally, in the summer months (usually starting around July) WIC provides vouchers for fruits and vegetables that can be purchased at farmers markets around the state. Any WIC participant who is 1 year of age or older at the time the vouchers are issued, is eligible for one voucher packet of $15.
WIC fruit and vegetable benefits FAQs:
Q: Can I get organic produce?
Q: How much money do I get for fruits and vegetables each month?
Children get $9 per month, and adults get $11 per month.
6-9 month old babies get 32 jars of pureed fruits and vegetables per month.
9-12 month old babies have the option of reducing the purees to 16 jars per month in exchange for $4 of fresh fruits and vegetables
Q: What happens if I buy more than my allotted amount of money on my card?
A: You will need to pay the difference for the produce you purchase.
Q: How do I stretch the cash value assigned to my WIC card for fruits and veggies?
A: You can purchase canned or frozen produce in place of fresh. It tends to be a bit cheaper and can last longer.
Q: My fruits and vegetables didn't scan at the register. What do I do?
A: First, scan the barcode of the produce to see if it is a WIC approved item. If it is, and it isn't scanning at the register, use the "I Couldn't Buy This" button on your WICShopper app to report the error. This will send a message to the state office so they can take a look at the problem and contact the store to update their system if necessary. This will take a couple of days. You should also check to be sure that you have not already used all of your produce benefits. If you have exhausted these, the food will need to be purchased with other funds.
Q: Can I get ANY fruit or vegetable?
A: No. You cannot buy produce from the a la carte or salad bar, dried fruits, canned fruits in syrup, or frozen produce that includes added ingredients like chocolate bits. When in doubt, scan the barcode of the product with your WICShopper app. This should tell you accurately if the item you are trying to buy is approved or not.