Summer in Minnesota means an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in every farmer’s market and grocery store. HealthPartners and Cub Foods have teamed up to make sure those healthy foods appear on children’s plates with a fruit and vegetable “prescription” program for families.
HealthPartners has given families $10 coupons for fresh food at Cubs across the Twin Cities metro every summer for around seven years, according to Marina Olson, a communications consultant with HealthPartners. A child’s yearly wellness check, which often happens during the summer when students are available for daytime appointments, is the ideal time to hand out the coupons and start a conversation about nutrition, she added.
“It starts up a conversation with the parents and children about what healthy eating looks like,” said Dr. Alice Macdonald, a family medicine doctor and medical weight management expert at HealthPartners’ Eden Prairie clinic.
Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day helps prevent diabetes, obesity and other long-term health impacts, she said.
It’s important to make the conversation accessible for both children and parents, Macdonald said. She often leads with questions like, “What does a family meal look like for you?” and “What tastes good to you?” and suggests that the child come along with the parent to the grocery store to pick out a new fruit or vegetable that looks interesting to them. Oftentimes, it’s just as tasty as the packaged food marketed toward children, Macdonald said.
“There’s a lot of things on the market that are heavily packaged, processed fruit products,” she said, but a basket of strawberries or blueberries is just as delicious and has the important fiber and vitamins that make them a healthy choice.
Most of all, the fruit and vegetable prescription program aims to support parents and help children build healthy habits, Olson said.
“We want to be a resource, we don’t want to just tell them what to do,” she explained. “Starting off young gives kids the tools they need to thrive.”
A pamphlet that comes with the coupon lays out several strategies that parents can use to help picky eaters appreciate healthy foods. Macdonald also gives suggestions about recipes and behaviors during wellness checks.
“At the moment, I’m telling people about smoothies,” she said, which parents can use to mix greens like kale and spinach with sweet fruits like bananas and strawberries to turn a healthy meal into a treat.
Above all, parents should join their children in culinary adventures, Macdonald said.
“As a parent, you’re modeling behavior for your children,” she said. “It’s so powerful, what your children observe you doing.”
The fruit and vegetable prescription program is available during children’s wellness checks at HealthPartners clinics throughout the Twin Cities, including the Eden Prairie location at 8455 Flying Cloud Drive.