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Eat Your Vegetables: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Heide Borgonovo

Hi! I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician.

I’m here today with health tips for kids about: vegetables.

When I think about vegetables, I think of Thomas Jefferson. The man who was the third president of the United States, an author and signer of the Declaration of Independence and the founder the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the west, including our state – Montana. He was very smart and creative; he invented lots of useful little gadgets and was passionate about architecture. He designed beautiful buildings like his famous home, Monticello, and the first buildings at the University of Virginia. He helped design the U. S. Capitol building where Congress meets in Washington DC.

That very same Thomas Jefferson was also passionate about guess what? Vegetables!!

At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson had a vegetable garden that was 1000 feet long. He grew over 70 species of vegetables and did experiments with his plants. When he was President, parsley was at the very top of his grocery list. He planted a thimble full of lettuce seeds every week so that he and his household would always have salad. (A thimble is a little cup that fits just over the top of your finger, so it holds about a tablespoon) He called olives “the richest gift of heaven” and thought tomatoes kept his blood “pure”.

When Thomas Jefferson was 76 years old he wrote, "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, and that ... as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet”. At dinner, at least half of his plate was covered with vegetables.

So what is it about vegetables that make them so special that your parents and your doctor are always telling you to eat them, that Thomas Jefferson loved them?

Well, vegetables are little powerhouses of nutrition. They’re packed with vitamins and minerals, things kids need in order to grow and to be healthy.

For example, potassium is a mineral that helps your heart beat regularly and your muscles be strong. One cup of lettuce has 70 mg of potassium. Three chocolate chip cookies have only 28 mg. Lettuce also has vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins and calcium. Chocolate chip cookies have no vitamin C, no vitamin K, and no B vitamins and only the teensiest bit of calcium.

Every single fresh vegetable you know is packed with nutrition. Broccoli has 229 mg of potassium and 31 mg of calcium in just a half a cup. A thimbleful – or one tablespoon - of parsley has 5 mg of vitamin C; a thimbleful of sugar has zero vitamin C. Sugar also has zero potassium and zero calcium. You get the point, right?

If you want to be a kid who has the energy to run and jump and play, if you want your skin to be healthy and your weight to be just right, if you want your brain to be tip top whenever you do homework or take a test, you’ve just got to have good nutrition, you’ve got to eat vegetables.

I know that lots of kids (and some adults) think vegetables are pretty darn boring. But that’s not true. Think of Thomas Jefferson and be an inventor. Come up with fun ways to make vegetables delicious. Explore new veggies at the market. Ask your parents to get butter and lemon to put on your vegetables while they’re still hot. Cook zucchini and asparagus, onions and potatoes on your grill, right next to the hamburgers and hot dogs. Throw some olives or chopped nuts on top of your veggies or experiment with different sauces or oils. Sesame oil, olive oil, a little parmesan cheese or soy sauce can really liven up a plain old vegetable.

Figuring out how many vegetables kids should eat is pretty easy. Make sure they take up half your dinner plate or measure your portions: kids up to age two should have least one cup of veggies per day. Kids between two and eight, 2 cups a day, and kids over eight, 3 to 4 cups every day.

Thomas Jefferson believed that vegetables contributed to his long and healthy life. Why not follow in his footsteps so you too can be happy and healthy.

I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck and I’m wishing you well.

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