Simple Secrets to Teaching Children About Healthy Food
By Joy Feldman, NC, JD
Ooey Gooey! Creamy and crunchy. Sweet and sour. Tantalizing treats dazzle and delight children wherever they turn. Today, most children are assaulted with an onslaught of advertisements and marketing touting and glamorizing these invented creations. The average child sees approximately 20,000 advertisements a year for foods that can be classified as junk food. The deluge of these poor food choices placed before children can make them less willing to adopt a healthy eating lifestyle. Taking care of our young ones is the best gift a parent can give a child.
For many of us, we are searching for magical foods that will not only delight our children, but also provide them with excellent nutrition. Incorporating foods that will infuse their bodies with superb fuel can be challenging, given their hyped-up romance with junk foods and fast foods. However, there are many options that are nutritious and delicious. But the tough part for many parents is getting their child to gobble up these earthly delights.
Here are some simple secrets for teaching children about healthy foods they will love:
1. Teach your children they are what they eat
What they put inside their bodies builds their bodies. Explain to them that healthy food is their fuel and that there is in fact a major construction project going on inside their bodies.
2. Be an excellent role model
Have fun with this and set a good example for your children by making excellent food choices. Eat the same healthy foods you recommend to your child and explain and teach your children why nutrition matters.
3. Motivate your child to improve their diet and make better choices
For example, teach them that good nutrition will help them have bigger muscles, shinier hair, longer nails and much more energy. With good nutrition, kids will have much more energy, which in turn will increase their self-esteem and confidence.
4. Avoid buying candy, cookies, donuts, ice cream and other sugary products
It will be easier for kids if the cupboards are filled with healthy choices, not sugar –coated treats. Keep the fridge filled with delicious vegetables and dips.
5. Join a Community Supported Agriculture Group (CSA)
This is a means to develop a membership relationship with a farm and also receive fresh produce weekly. Some CSA’s also might ask that members work a small number of hours at the farm during growing season. This is the co-op style of food buying. If you choose, your family can take part in this hands- on- education about farm life and harvesting vegetables. What great fun! You may even want to look into a summer camp program that focuses on organic farming. It’s a great way to teach your children the connection between good health and organically grown foods.
6. Take your children to the market with a pre-made shopping list and have them pick out healthy foods
Have your kids look into other people’s carts and see what they are choosing? Does that parent pushing the cart look healthy?
7. Have a small window garden
Plant basil, rosemary, parsley and thyme and ask your children to collect it for cooking. In the good weather you can take these plants outdoors or on your deck. You can add leaf lettuce, too.
8. Get your children in the kitchen with you
Food preparation at home is an opportunity to teach your children and have fun with them as well. When kids feel a part of the process, they are more likely to try new foods. Let your kids thumb through the cookbook recipes and have them pick out what they like. If they are too young to cook alone, have them cook alongside you, sampling the different tastes of the foods that are being prepared. Purchase cooking aprons and maybe even a chef’s hat for each child and have them decorate with colored markers.
9. Make a family decision to have more meals at home
Cook a family meal together. A meal made freshly at home, is a great way to educate the kids about healthy foods. It is terrific for the whole family by creating a great example for the kids on the importance of food choices. Here is an easy side dish to try with your young ones. Since all kids love chips, try this great idea-Slice up those carrots, parsnips, kale and sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Roast at 400F. The Kale takes about 5–8 minutes. The remaining veggies take about 10–15 minutes. Yum!
10. Make it fun
Enjoy, giggle, laugh and explore new foods and different cooking options to keep your wee ones interested and excited about nutritious choices. You’ll be surprised to see what they try and what they will learn when everyone involved is having fun.