While we realize not every child has the opportunity to pull a ripe carrot from the soil or pea pod straight from the vine, many advocates of healthy eating understand the value of connecting to real food. Farmer’s markets, trips to the grocery store, and even including children in the dinner-prep provides them with a window through which they can begin to understand where our food comes from, to taste how delicious it can be, and to experience the wonder of the food that nourishes us.
So in recognition of Kids Eat Right Month, here are our 5 tips to encourage healthy habits for children and adults of all ages.
1. Invite your child into the kitchen to help make dinner. Kids are more likely to eat what they cook; they love projects, and cooking their own dinner gives them a sense of accomplishment and ownership. Give them age-appropriate tasks like washing vegetables, measuring ingredients, dumping or stirring, and of course, taste testing.
2. Give foods fun names. A recent study from Cornell University shows children eat twice as many vegetables when the veggies were labeled with cool, fun names, like ‘X-ray Vision Carrots’ and ‘Tiny Tasty Tree Tops.’ So, let your kiddos come up with fun names for foods and you’ll watch those veggies disappear!
3. Give kids choices. Let your children have a say in dinner and they’ll feel empowered. For example, when you’re making pizza, set out bowls of different types of vegetable (and maybe even some fruit!) toppings, and let your child build his own pizza. You may be surprised when they choose spinach!
4. Introduce new foods. Studies suggest kids may have to taste a food 15 or 20 times before she starts to like it. So, keep serving that side of broccoli and encouraging your child to at least taste it. Eventually, their taste buds will start to accept it—and even like it! At the same time, include foods on the table that they already like such as carrots, beans, or berries!
5. Eat together as a family. The research is clear—kids who eat dinner with their parents are healthier, happier and less likely to get into trouble as a teen. The best conversations in our lives—and often our best memories—usually happen around the table. There are 1,440 minutes in a day—make at least 30 of those minutes a dinner with your kids, and you’ll all be happier!
Here are a few online resources filled with articles and ideas for cooking with your kids.
Kids Eat Right (www.eatright.org/kids) is a site of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, focused on kids nutrition.
Spatulatta (http://www.spatulatta.com) teaches children to cook with free step-by-step videos and encourages children to eat more vegetables and fruits.
Super Kids Nutrition (www.superkidsnutrition.com) provides articles, tips and resources for raising healthy eaters.
The Kids Cook Monday (www.thekidscookmonday.org) provides articles, tips and resources for cooking with your kids.
ZisBoomBah (blog.zisboombah.com) is an interactive website that helps families get excited about healthy meals.