Fruit and Veggie Rx: How doctor’s orders and a partnership with local grocers gets kids excited about healthy foods
“Pick up your prescription in the produce aisle.”
When a medical provider writes a prescription, it sends a powerful message. It’s why we prescribe medicine when that’s the best option for treatment. And it’s why I (along with my fellow HealthPartners and Park Nicollet primary care clinicians) prescribe produce to help kids grow and power up their bodies and minds.
Eating five fruits and vegetables per day helps us improve our health, naturally. The Fruit and Veggie Rxs that my colleagues and I give out are cash vouchers that can be redeemed for fresh produce at participating grocery stores. Our organization has run this program each summer since 2013. It serves families who bring their kids in for well-child exams before the start of the fall school year. Stay tuned for the exact 2019 dates that our Veggie Rx program will run!
All 60+ of our organization’s primary care clinics offer the Fruit and Veggie Rx program each summer
Pediatricians (like myself), family medicine providers and internal medicine pediatrics (med-peds) doctors are the types of clinicians who provide primary care to children. My organization has locations all across the Twin Cities, central Minnesota and western Wisconsin where we practice. Find a clinic near you where your child can see a HealthPartners or Park Nicollet provider who works in:
Our partner grocers for the Fruit and Veggie Rx program
The Fruit and Veggie Rx vouchers we give out can be used at:
- All Cub Foods stores across the Twin Cities metro
- The Festival Foods location in Hugo, MN
- Select Family Fresh Market and Econofoods locations in western Wisconsin
- The Westfields Farmers Market in New Richmond, WI
- Select Coborn’s and Cash Wise locations in central Minnesota
Tips for helping kids eat healthier
Our Fruit and Veggie Rx program helps make eating more produce doable for kids and families. I also urge you to engage your child in grocery shopping and meal prep. Doing this often makes them more likely to try new things and choose better foods on their own.
Here are some ideas for what you can do:
- Choose a recipe together and have your child make the grocery list. They’ll practice their handwriting while helping out!
- Go through the sale flyers together and plan your menu around seasonal specials.
- Even the youngest kids can get involved. Ask them to name one fruit or veggie that they like. Then, plan a fun, colorful recipe around that choice. When food is colorful, cut up into interesting shapes, or has a fun name, kids are more likely to try it.
- Older children can take on a whole meal – choose the menu, find recipes and make the grocery list. Or, you can have a cook-off where each person in your family is in charge of making a different dish or side for the meal. Here’s one of my favorite better-for-you recipes to consider:
Kids are often unsure about “new” foods. And that’s quite normal. Kids actually taste things differently than adults. Sweet and salty foods are accepted more quickly than bitter tastes. So, experiment preparing foods in different ways since that can affect the flavor. Your child may not like veggies steamed, for example, but you may find that they love them roasted.
The bottom line is, don’t get discouraged. Keep offering fruits and veggies to your kids with no pressure, and praise them just for trying. Our tastes evolve as we get older – and that means that even if some veggies are not favorites at first, your child’s preference for them can change. Letting your child catch you trying fruits and veggies will help a lot, too!
You can get more tips and recipes in the PowerUp section of our website.
About Jason Maxwell, MD
Dr. Jason Maxwell is the HealthPartners Chair of Pediatrics and practices at our St. Paul Clinic. Dr. Maxwell is enthralled with children’s energy and vitality as well as their unique perspective on life. He loves to talk to his young patients and their families, and to watch them grow and develop over the years. He believes not only in treating children, but also educating parents so that they can make the best health decisions for their kids. Self-described as a high-energy person, Dr. Maxwell commutes by bicycle nine months out of the year and uses a treadmill desk when working in his office. Outside of work, he loves to cook and experiment with creating new recipes, as well as travel the globe.