Are You Going to Eat That and Other Food Observations

By Sharon Vaughn Smith, Fairfax Master Gardener
Have your friends ever asked you, “What are you eating?” Have you then wondered what they might be eating? Have you ever been eating something, and your friends asked, “Are you going to eat that?” I bet you have heard your parents or grandparents say, “Eat all your fruits and vegetables.” Did you know that eating a rainbow helps you grow strong and healthy, too?

food rainbowWhen you serve yourself food, you should always be thinking about putting items on your plate that make up the colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. You may not be able to eat all the colors of the rainbow in food at every meal, yet if you think about what colors you haven’t eaten that day and select that color of food at your next meal, you could eat a rainbow of food.

You might be wondering, “How do we eat a rainbow?” If we eat colorful fruits and vegetables that represent the 5 parts of a plant, as in roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits with seeds, then it isn’t too hard. Each part of the plant that we eat has a different benefit for our bodies. As you are sitting at the lunch table at school, take a look around and see what your friends are eating. Is everyone eating colorful food items? What parts of the plant are they eating?

Carrots and sweet potatoes, for example, are roots. Your eyes benefit from eating these orange food items because of the beta-Carotene. Beta-Carotene makes these foods orange, and when ingested (eaten), it turns into vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes healthy. When you eat stems, like celery, your bones will benefit because stems are full of sodium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which make bones stronger. Lettuce leaves provide the body with vitamins A and C, which support skin health and keep you from getting sick. Broccoli, a flower, helps with digestion, since it is a natural fiber. Red tomatoes or apples contain lycopene, an antioxidant, that helps your heart stay healthy.

Now that you know all the benefits of eating the 5 parts of a plant, the one easy way to eat a rainbow is eating a salad. When you eat a salad, you can brag to your friends that you are eating all the parts of a plant in one meal. For example, a salad made up of carrots (roots), celery (stems), lettuce (leaves), broccoli (flower) and tomatoes (fruit) would taste delicious, and it would help provide your body with what it needs to continue to grow strong and healthy. By adding more colors of fruits and vegetables to this healthy salad, you are eating a rainbow, too.

You may have heard the saying, You are what you eat. To grow up strong and healthy, you will need to eat good food. As you make food choices for yourself, always remember to eat the 5 parts of the plant (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits with seeds) and make it fun by eating a rainbow of colors. When you eat well, you feel well and when you feel well, you are able to do well in school, in sports and at all the fun things you enjoy doing.