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Robust Rainbow Recipes

By The Junior Master Gardener® Program

Children can learn to snack in more healthful, nutritious ways and may be more willing to try new and different foods grown from their own gardens. Junior Master Gardener® (JMG), an international youth gardening program developed by the Texas Cooperative Extension, has developed the Health and Nutrition from the Garden SM program to help teach children about the many benefits and possibilities available through gardening. Growing fruits and vegetables in a home or community garden also provides an environment where health, nutrition, food safety and wise decision-making skills can be taught.

In this activity from Health and Nutrition from the Garden, children will learn about the robust rainbow of colors that exist in fruits and vegetables that they can grow (or find in your local market), and the importance of including these foods in their diet.

Why Eat Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day?

The saying "five a day" reflects the Food Guide Pyramid guidelines, which suggest that Americans should consume at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day.

To increase fruit and vegetable intake:

  1. Snack on fresh fruit or raw vegetables.
  2. Add strawberries, peaches or bananas to breakfast cereals or oatmeal.
  3. If you have a choice between 100% fruit juice or soda, pick the juice.
  4. Brighten up salad with carrots, bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.
  5. Add grapes and slices of apples and pears to a chicken salad.
  6. A great topping for broiled meat, chicken or fish is salsa. One-half cup of salsa is equal to one serving of vegetables.

Let the Fun Begin!

Before beginning this activity remind your kids of the importance of food safety. This means doing things to make sure food is properly handled, stored, preserved and served. To ensure that no germs or bacteria contaminate foods, be sure to wash all surfaces (counters and cutting boards), wash your hands, and rinse garden veggies with water to get rid of soil, bugs or sand.

Now you're ready to make a robust rainbow recipe using five different colored fruits picked from the garden or local market. Or mix and match - look for a variety of fruits in vegetables that come in a wide range of colors.

To begin with, ask kids to name the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. What other things are colorful? Plants are colorful too. Fruit makes colorful snacks and is healthful to eat.

Fruits come in a robust rainbow of colors and they contribute to a healthful diet because they are packed with more than just vitamins and minerals! Fruits contain natural compounds called phytochemicals that you can see, taste or smell. Think about the red color in a watermelon or the orange color of a carrot. Have you ever thought about what gives some onions that hot and spicy flavor? Or, have you ever smelled a strawberry?

Scientists are beginning to evaluate the compounds that plants make naturally and have a better understanding of how they help us. Use the following list of colors and the natural plant compounds that benefit us, and discuss with your kids.

RedRed: may help fight some cancers; helps fight colds; helps keep the heart healthy; and helps us see at night.

OrangeOrange: May help fight colds; aids in developing a healthy heart; may help prevent cataracts; acts as a scrub brush for inside the body (cleans out the digestive system).

YellowYellow: Aids in scrubbing out the body and may help prevent hypertension.

GreenGreen: May help fight some cancers; helps prevent cramps of legs and arms; helps us see at night; acts as a scrub brush for inside the body (cleans out the digestive system).

BlueBlue(berry): May help fight some cancers; may help prevent hypertension.

PurplePurple: May help fight some cancers; helps develop red, strong blood that carries oxygen from the lungs.

Fruits have naturally occurring sugars, too, that are a good source of energy.

To make the rainbow salad, arrange your fruit collection by color and assign each child to a color group. Cut bite-size pieces of each fruit and toss them into a bowl. A glass container will allow everyone to see the robust rainbow of colors. Begin with the color red, share it's health benefits and naturally occurring compounds. Follow this with the remaining four colors (orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo or violet) selected, piling one color on top of the other to create the rainbow. Once the fruits/vegetables are cut, have someone toss the entire salad. Cooks can top the fruit snack with whipped cream, yogurt, etc.


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