Updated: Jul 16
As a vegetarian it might be easy for me to say that a plate with different colours of fruit and veg just looks awesome. And although, I have never enjoyed meat much, I do have a natural inclination to grab for the carbs. Over time, I have learned to enjoy vegetables and fruits. Preparing them in the right way and making a habit of reaching for a piece of fruit or some dried fruit as a snack to fill me up has increased my love for fruit and veg.
But why should does it matter to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and not just our favourite items? The answer to this is all about having a wider variety of foods. Having a diverse range of foods, provides you with different vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. Eating a full rainbow, will push us to choose different products from our usual choices. Each colour of fruit and veg also tends to have a certain health benefit thanks to the nutrients that give the fruit/veg their colour.
Red fruit and vegetables give an instant colour to our dishes. The most popular red food is probably the tomato. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that gives tomatoes its red colour, and supports our bodies to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Lycopene is more easily absorbed once it is heated (cooked) – thus consider heating a tomato with your (fried) eggs or make your own tomato soup or sauce with fresh tomatoes.
The red fruit highest in vitamin C – an antioxidant improving mood and reducing stress – is the amazing red bell pepper! Do you know the difference between red, yellow and green peppers? The red ones are simply fully ripened on the vine, whilst the green ones are picked earlier. This additional time on the vine allowed the bell pepper to increase its amount of vitamin C and sugar, making it sweeter too – now you know why kids might put their noses up to green bell peppers, but are happy to eat the red ones!
As we move towards summer, berries will come in season too. Berries (fresh or frozen) contain phenolic compounds, enhancing our mood and providing a wide range of health benefits such as cutting down the incidence of diseases such as cancer, diabetis and cardiovascular diseases.
Orange fruit and vegetables tend to be high in carotenoids – including alpha- and beta carotene. These components give the fruit and vegetables their colour colour, and is converted to vitamin A in our body. Vitamin A is great for our immune system, it fights depression and keeps our eyes healthy. Your parents probably told you that carrots are good for our eyes – they were right!
Orange citrus fruit, such as oranges, are high in vitamin C. If oranges are not your favourite fruit to eat, what about its juice? A simple manual juicer will help you make a delicious drink full of vitamin C. You could even grate the peel first and use the fragrant zest in your salads, bakes or to infuse your water.
Yellow fruits and vegetables also contain carotenoids, and have a similar health benefit to orange fruits and vegetables.
Yellow is also a happy colour, and will instantly give a splash of colour on your plate. There are lots of yellow fruits and vegetables to enjoy, such as corn, pineapple, melon, swedes, bananas and lemons! Speaking of lemons, did you know that just the smell of lemon can improve our mood? Plus its a great source of vitamin C too.
Green fruits and vegetables contain chlorophyll, giving them their green colour. There are a very wide range of green fruits and vegetables, with different health benefits, eating a variety of green vegetables is thus important.
Some family friendly suggestions to include in your meals include
spinach, containing nitrate and iron to help your body produce energy. Iron deficiency is very common, and can leave you feeling tired and irritable. Keep some cooked & blended spinach around in your freezer, for a quick easy addition to any pasta or rice dish or even smoothie!
Peas are a traditional favourite for kids, and are also a great source of iron.
Green leafy vegetables are a good source of Omega 3, and our perfect chopped up in an oven or rice dish.
And finally, some other easy green fruits and vegetables to consider include cucumbers, apples, lettuce, leeks (try to replace an onion with a leek in your recipes for example), limes and courgettes.
Indigo (blue/purple) fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins or betalains – both strong anti-oxidants with great health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and helping to reduce risk of cancer. As blue food is less common, it is fun to experiment with some blue on your plate too.
Blue and purple fruit and vegetables include blueberries, aubergine, purple cabbage, purple grapes and purple beetroot. Beetroot is such a versatile vegetable and can be enjoyed in salads, curries, soups, oven dish and even in chocolate cake.
Are you ready to embrace the rainbow with your family?
If so, we have 5 fun challenges for you!
Draw fruit or veggies in each of the colours of the rainbow. Ask your child(ren) (and yourself ;) to let their imagination flow and come up with a fruit or veggie in each of the colours of the rainbow. Print out our template to get you started!
Go shopping together and ask you child(ren) to choose one fruit or vegetable for each colour of the rainbow. This activity engages the child with all the different choices of fruit and vegetables around and encourages them to try something new. Don’t force your child to eat the newly bought produce, but do ask them if they want a little try!
How many different coloured fruits and vegetables can your child try in one month? Print out our colour chart, and colour a fruit and veg each time it has been tried. Touching with the tongue counts as trying ;)
Make a super-healthy salad: can you make a salad with each of the colours of the rainbow on your plate? Share your pictures on social media under #rainbowfoodchallenge & we would love to be tagged in @edibee_family_food (IG) / @edibee (fb)
And finally, for one week, have each day one dish dedicated to one of the colours of the rainbow! Anything goes! Just some ideas: Monday a tomato pasta and watermelon for dessert, Tuesday pumpkin soup with roasted sweet potato, Wednesday a yellow fruit yoghurt for breakfast, Thursday a green salad for lunch and friday blueberry porridge.