A Dietitian Explains the Importance of Fruits and Veggies to a 6-Year-Old

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

In Explain It Like I’m 6, a dietitian answers the burning health questions from Associate Food Editor Meghan Splawn‘s daughter, Ella.

In this mini series we’ve already answered most of Ella’s very thoughtful health questions. She asked her mom, Meghan, about protein, why she can’t eat ice cream every day, and why she should eat apples. Today we’re taking a step back and talking about why she should be eating fruits and veggies — period. Here’s Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition with the answer.

(Image credit: Sally Kuzemchak )

Meet Sally of Real Mom Nutrition.com

Sally Kuzemchak is the author of The 101 Healthiest Foods for Kids and the founder of RealMomNutrition.com, a no-judgments zone about feeding a family. We asked Sally to answer five of Ella’s questions about health and wellness in the easiest way possible.

Why Are Fruits and Veggies Important?

Because they are! (See how smart your mom is?) Fruits and vegetables have a ton of stuff in them that makes us healthy, and you should eat them every day.

For starters, fruits and vegetables have a bunch of vitamins in them. Vitamins are things in food that do all kinds of different and important jobs in the body. Vitamin C helps your body heal when you get hurt. Vitamin A keeps your eyes healthy. Vitamin E protects you from getting diseases later.

Fruits and vegetables also have a lot of water in them, which keeps you healthy in the same way that drinking water does. Fruits and vegetables also have fiber in them, which is good for your heart and helps digestion, making it easy for you to poop every day (which you should!). Some vegetables even contain protein.

As you know, fruits and vegetables come in all kinds of colors. Turns out that each of those colors does something unique and helpful for the body. The red color in watermelon and tomatoes is good for the heart. The blue and red color in blueberries and red cabbage can help keep your memory strong and protect you from disease. Yellow, orange, green, and even white also do their own special things. That’s one reason why you should eat a lot of different kinds of fruits and vegetables — so you can get all of those colors and benefits for your body.

Dietitians like me often say that half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, which basically means that you should be eating a lot of them whenever you eat a meal. Some people love a lot of different vegetables, but some people are still learning to like them.

And some people like fruit more than vegetables because it has a sweeter flavor. Fruit tastes sweet because it has a natural sugar in it — a sugar that’s better for you than the sugar in soda because it comes with a lot of other nutrients. Fruit has a lot of the same vitamins in it as vegetables, so if you’re still iffy on some vegetables, that’s okay. Keep trying and make sure you’re eating lots of fruit. And keep in mind that even though you may think about carrots and broccoli when you think about vegetables, potatoes, beans, and salsa are vegetables too.

You should get most of your fruit and vegetables from whole pieces of fruit, not from juice, because the peels and a lot of the good stuff from fruit is stripped away when the juice is made. But smoothies in the blender are okay since everything ends up in your glass.