I have a child who likes to be involved. He’s only 18 months but he does not want to be left out of anything. If I’m on my phone, he wants to see what I’m looking at. If I’m in the bathroom he wants to know what is going on (anyone else have that issue?). At the grocery store he has to see what I’m looking at and what is going into the shopping cart. In the kitchen he is pretty much always on a chair or on the counter to supervise what I’m cooking. Kids have a natural curiosity and a natural desire to assert their independence, so why not take advantage of that and use it to help educate them on food.
I’ve touched on the subject of getting your kids involved with their food previously, but I’m such a cheerleader of it I decided to give the topic its own post. Involving your sprouts in the food they eat has a variety of benefits. This is a great way to educate them on healthy eating habits. It can help encourage them to try new things and decrease some of those picky eating habits. It is also just another opportunity to spend quality time with your kids in this crazy, busy, overstimulating world we live in. Here’s a few suggestions on how to get them involved.
Take them grocery shopping with you: taking your kids to the grocery store is a perfect time to educate them on healthy eating habits AND encourage them to try new foods. Sure, it might be a circus trying to keep 3 kids from running in all directions, but you can also let them pick out their own fruits or veggies to try. Show them all the whole grain options. Talk about different kinds of protein, and while you’re at it talk about what protein is and why we need it! If I could, I would take everyone grocery shopping. It’s basically the library for dietitians.
Go to a farmer’s market: Farmer’s markets are awesome! Where else can you buy produce directly from the farmer at reasonable prices?! If you don’t have your own garden, farmer’s markets are the next best thing. Not only can you educate your child on the fruits and vegetables available, but the workers can help! Educate your kids on where their foods come from before it hits the grocery store shelves!
Let your kids help with meal plans: Growing up, my mom had a brilliant idea for each of her 4 kids living at home (the oldest was gone by this time) to plan 1 meal per week. Now, I don’t think the execution was as easy as she had hoped (picture buying groceries for 4 completely unrelated meals and trying to convince a 17 year old boy to plan a balanced dinner), but I still think the idea was genius! Involving your kids in meal planning gives them ownership, gets them excited to eat said meal, and definitely the opportune moment to discuss balanced meals (you know…protein, carb, vegetable…).
Let kids help with meal prep: As a dietitian I really feel that being able to prepare simple meals makes a world of difference in the healthy eating category. Not only is eating out more expensive (believe me, it really is), but it is a lot less healthy than preparing food at home. Want to help your sprouts eat healthy for a lifetime? Teach them some basic cooking skills. Let them help you in the kitchen. It may get messy but they will thank you later. Trust me on this one!
Eating out: If you’re going to eat out (don’t worry, we all do), try eating out somewhere with foods from another culture. This can be a great teaching opportunity to help your child learn about new ingredients, new foods, and new cultures. Maybe if we can teach our children to accept a culture’s food, we can teach them to accept other aspects as well.
So, whether you are making cookies, kale salad, or a Poptart…I hope this will inspire you to spend time with your sprouts teaching them about the food we eat and encouraging them to try new things. What are your favorite ways to get your littles (or older kids) involved with their food?