We all know it's important to eat veggies, but now a leading Melbourne GP has discovered there's an easy-to-digest way for kids to understand the concept of eating healthy – through the power of storytelling.
While upping our fruit and veg intake for our children may not be new, the difference with this is that it's written by renowned doctor and mum Dr Preeya Alexander.
Also known as The Wholesome Doctor, Dr. Preeya's book, Rainbow Plate, endeavours to provide both parents and teachers a child-friendly resource to educate about healthy eating.
Off the back of Australia's Health 2018 report revealing 99 per cent of Australians aged 2–19 do not eat enough vegetables, Dr Preeya is attempting to inform, educate and motivate caregivers not only in the clinic and through her social media reach, but also now with this book.
"Being a GP and mother, I know the troubles we can face getting our kids to eat a balanced diet, high in fruit and vegetables – and I know the consequences of what can happen if they don't," she said.
"The health benefits for your child are abundant though – getting enough fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of obesity and obesity-related disease in their adult life."
The Obesity Policy Coalition, established by the Cancer Council, Diabetes Victoria, Vic Health and The Global Obesity Centre at Deakin University, has also endorsed the book.
The Obesity Policy Coalition Executive Manager Jane Martin, says Rainbow Plate will help engage and empower parents to support their children to eat fruit and vegetables.
"Rainbow Plate can improve the nutrition of our kids from an early age, leading to a healthier start in life," she said.
"Australian children get about one third of their energy from unhealthy food and drinks and only five per cent eat enough vegetables each day.
"Worryingly this means most are missing out on the nutrition they need for healthy development. We know that a wide range of actions are required to improve children's diets and support them to be healthy.
"That's why it's great to see educational resources such as Rainbow Plate to support parents and counter the influence of the pervasive unhealthy food and drink marketing pushed on our kids."
The story follows a young girl named Stevie and her best friend Wilbur, who is a duck, and the adventures they go on to eat fruit and veg of all colours of the rainbow.
Dr. Preeya's writing takes the reader on a colourful journey, exploring an abundance of delicious, healthy options for children and their parents to eat alike.
Rainbow Plate is a great addition to any kindergarten or primary classroom, and parents can also source further information from Dr. Preeya's website, The Wholesome Doctor.
"Parents have some control over their child's chronic disease risk – a good diet and active lifestyle in childhood can change their health trajectory later in life," she said.
"Healthy habits really do start young and I'm hopeful this book will help parents and teachers create some magic in kitchens and rainbows on plates."
The book is illustrated by Sydney-based artist Annabel Cutler and published by children's book publisher Little Steps.
Rainbow Plate, RRP $15.99, will be available for purchase directly from thewholesomedoctor.com.au, and at leading bookstores, such as Dymocks, Angus and Robertson and online at Booktopia and other online retailers.
For more information on Dr. Preeya and Rainbow Plate, visit the website or follow her on Instagram @thewholesomedoctor
Question: Can you tell us aboutÂ The Rainbow Plate?
Dr Preeya Alexander: Rainbow Plate is a book aimed at young children (from toddlers to early school age) that tries to encourage eating plenty of colours, fruit and vegetables every day. The book brings magic and colour to healthy eating- making the idea more palatable and engaging for children. I know from experience, both as mother and a GP who sees plenty of children, that forcing anything on children doesn't usually work; you tend to have more success with great stories and making a task enjoyable and fun and I've done this with balanced eating by using a story, rainbows and colours.
Question: What inspired you to write The Rainbow Plate?
Dr Preeya Alexander: Well firstly, I am a mother myself so I know how tricky it can be getting colours into kids! I started using the concept of colours, rainbows and magic with my daughter and then my patients and it tends to work really well. I often have to prescribe increased fibre, fruit and vegetable intake in kids with issues such as constipation or fussy eating. Talking about rainbows and colours has really helped with kids in lots of different age groups.
I know how challenging fussy eaters can be, I regularly have parents seeking help in general practice, and I felt a book like this would help parents with getting more fruit and vegetables into the diet without it being a debate and chore every single day.
The recent Australia Health Report 2018 also revealed that 99% of Australian children aged 2-19 years old do not get the recommended serves of vegetables (having said that 96% of Australian adults don't get the recommended vegetable serves in either which is also a worry). To me that is an astounding figure, particularly when we know how important a good diet can be when it comes to chronic disease and obesity prevention. The Rainbow Plate was very much hoping to address some of these issues!
Question: What messaged do you hope The Rainbow Plate spreads to parents and children?
Dr Preeya Alexander: I hope it helps parents as I know how drained parents can get trying to get goodness into children and I hope this injects a bit of magic and energy into that ongoing journey. For children, I hope it makes fruit and vegetables far more fun! From the feedback I have received already from parents who have the book and they are finding their kids very engaged and much more willing to try colours on their plates which is wonderful to hear!
Question: How did you ensure youÂ informed kids in an easy-to-digest way about the concept of eating healthy?
Dr Preeya Alexander: Firstly, I involved a likeable animal character ie. Wilbur the Duck because I've seen how my daughter has always responded positively to an engaging animal character. I also ensured the story was simple and repetitive and that it kept repeating the message that colours on plates were wonderful. Linking vegetable and fruit colours to other objects also helped as I've found with my own daughter pointing out that corn is yellow like the sun makes her more willing to engage in the food on her plate. I also kept the story short and punchy- as a parent I know if a book is very long I am less willing to read it after a long day at work; parents have already reported the length is perfect for engaging young children, without exhausting the parent!
Question: What does it mean to eat the rainbow?Â
Dr Preeya Alexander: It simply means having a bit of everything and aiming for lots of colours on the plate! The fruit and vegetable serving sizes vary according to age and it's something I have addressed in my letter to parents and caregivers at the front of the book (as well as my hot tips for dealing with fussy eaters); the key though I think is to not focus on the serving sizes and numbers so much but to build in fruit and vegetables into the diet every day, make it the norm and keep it fun!
I think the key message is everything in moderation is great but we could certainly do with more fruit and vegetables in our diet on the whole given the statistics from the recent Australia Health Report 2018 I mentioned earlier.
Question: How can parents raise their kids as health-conscious eaters?
Dr Preeya Alexander: I think role modeling is paramount, if you expect your children to eat lots of colours, fruit and vegetables then you ideally need to eat the same things. Children need to see that is the norm and everyone eats rainbows every day. If you expect your kids to eat cucumber, lettuce and tomato but your plate does not have the same things on it then the message just doesn't carry as much weight.
Making a healthy balanced diet fun is also a way to make kids aware of what they are eating without forcing it on them. Keeping a healthy balanced diet fun, and not a chore, is a big help.
Interview by Brooke Hunter