How to encourage kids to eat healthy — by designing with them

Meet my sister Bella. She’s 8-years-old and loves chips, candy, cookies…and anything covered with butter (not my words, her own). She likes broccoli when it’s in butter, and thinks carrots are evil little creatures with claws.

Bella and I embarked on a food experiment together. We wanted to see how different foods would make her feel, and I wanted to see if she could express her feelings through drawings.

The materials

We got lots of blank paper, crayons, and markers (scented of course), and the most important thing — her favorite and least favorite foods.

The procedure

Step 1: gather all the blank paper together, and just enjoy some snacks and color for a bit. This is to warm-up all the creative juices. We started drawing together after Bella had finished her mountain picture. This is super important because the kids need to be ready to create and think.

Step 2: give the kids some blank paper (make sure you have some too — no this isn’t just for them) and ask them to eat one of the foods on the plate.

Step 3: have them describe how the food makes them feel. Might be strange, so you need to talk about it, asking questions like “can you draw the food”, “can you draw how the food looks inside your body”, “can you draw how the food makes you feel”? Things like that. You can ask more questions or change them dependent on how the kid is resonating with the ideas.

Step 4: draw the feelings + responses together. This should be a co-creation session. Ask your kid to draw how that cookie makes them feel for example, and also help them write their thoughts down (write your thoughts too!). With Bella I wrote down little notes for her and gave her my opinions — like how the cookie makes me feel happy at first, and tired later.

Step 5: repeat steps 3–4 with each food on the plate. When finished you’ll have tons of food drawings. You can look through them together.

Step 6: the great thing about this experiment is that it’s an experiment! You can modify and add things. Bella got excited and went to find more foods in the fridge to draw and talk about.

Step 7: go into your pantry/fridge and find what foods you eat the most. Look on the back. Get your kids to read the ingredients. Do you know what they are? Bella had NO CLUE what was in M&M yogurt. She was like…chocolate and yogurt? But no. There’s a whole group of bad things hidden in these yogurt cups. After reading all the things, she thought “maybe these don’t feel so good after all”.

We noticed “palm oil” was in SO MANY FOODS. Even “healthy” foods like almond butter. Did you know that palm oil is wiping out orangutans? It’s a huge part of deforestation, and what is in so many food products nowadays.

“Palm oil is in 50% of all products on the shelves of supermarkets”.

Read more about it here, or take a peak online to find out more.

Bella loves all animals. After learning about this, she wanted to make a poster to send to her friends to let them know we should protect animals.

She gathered all the animals in her room, colored a poster we made together, and messaged her friends.

She even said “I’m gonna try something, don’t judge me” and grabbed some tape. She put it over the mouth of the monkey and grabbed her doll. She said the doll represents humans, and we are silencing animals by destroying their land. She then had the doll tape the monkey’s mouth and said, “ALL LIVES MATTER”.

Pretty powerful words for an 8-year-old. If only more company executives and adults could see the world like children.

We always dismiss children because they are too “crazy”, “imaginative”, or “impractical”. But they have some pretty wise ideas and care about the world.

This is why we should be doing nutrition workshops like this in school, and teaching kids at an early age about the importance of eating healthy for themselves AND the planet

What do you think of grapes Bella?

“I love them because I know what they are — grapes”. Bella jumps up and down to show how happy they make her feel.

Be mindful of what you eat. Make a food journal, rummage through your pantry to see what you find, and learn about how your choices impact the environment. The earth provides a home for us, and we should be more mindful of our actions — you wouldn’t walk into a friend’s house and start destroying it would you?

Many people think it’s more expensive to eat healthy — my own family included. But, after learning how much food you can make when you buy whole ingredients (i.e. fruits, veggies, etc), you’ll realize you save a lot of money. With medical bills increasing, and our health and mental states plummeting, we really need to take a second look at what’s on our plates.

Take care,

Sarah

Interaction design student passionate about health, sustainable food, and co-design — find me at sarahkstrickler.com

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