Back to School Rainbow Meal Planning

Updated: 8/2/18 In the U.S., only eight percent of children consume dark, leafy greens. Many children are tempted by sugary and carb-dense foods, rather than colorful produce that offers a wide variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants. In addition to helping children establish lifelong, healthy habits, the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables are essential not only for developmental health, but to fight off disease and chronic conditions too. When looking for culinary inspiration this school year, use the colors of the rainbow as a guide and "eat the rainbow".

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Red foods contain lycopene, anthocyanins, beta-carotene and vitamin C. Lycopene is a strong antioxidant linked to reducing the risk of cancer. Specifically, tomatoes are said to fight the threat of heart disease and berries are linked to a lower risk of cancer, diabetes, inflammation and neurological diseases.  Try apples, cherries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, red cabbage, red onion, red peppers, strawberries or tomatoes.

Orange/Yellow foods contain beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin which support healthy skin, hair and vision. It is also a phytonutrient that helps make vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for night vision and the vitamin C found in citrus fruits improves immune health. Yellow foods are also high in folate, supporting red blood cell functions.  Cantaloupe, orange/yellow peppers, oranges, peaches, pineapples and sweet potatoes are great sources!

Green foods contain essential micronutrients like iron and their high fiber content lowers the glycemic index of foods eaten along with them. These foods also contain vitamin B for energy, vitamins C and E to fight off free radicals that promote disease and offer calcium for bone health. The alkaline found in green foods can also help reduce acidity.  Try broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, grapes, green beans, honeydew, kale or pears.

Blue/Purple foods have high amounts of potassium, which help oxygen flow throughout the brain and body, which can help alleviate allergies and inflammation. The most unique benefits of blue and purple food is their ability to assist in preventing urinary tract infections, fight ulcers and prevent other diseases caused by cell damage.  Try beets, blueberries, eggplant, purple asparagus, purple cauliflower, red cabbage, red and purple grapes or plums.

White/Brown  Healthy, white foods include those that are tan or brown on the outside and white on the inside.  One of the most common cancer-fighting antioxidants in white foods is called anthoxanthin. Garlic, ginger, onions and all other allium vegetables also contain an antioxidant called allicin, shown to act as a natural antibiotic to help boost the immune system.  Try bean sprouts, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, onions or tofu.