4 Tips for Making Nutrition Fun for Children
As parents or caregivers to young children, we’ve all been there—we slave away in the kitchen, making a nutrient dense meal full of nutritious foods…only to have our children turn their noses up at it and beg for takeaway from the nearest burger bar. Oh, the humanity!
As frustrating as these experiences can be, it is important to keep offering children healthy food options and to educate them on the basics of nutrition. According to the organization, World Hunger, nearly 2 billion children around the globe struggle with their weight and obesity. It is vitally important that children learn early on how the foods they choose to eat affect the health of their bodies. Nurturing healthy eating habits in your children can go a long way in helping them maintain a healthy weight, good physical growth, and build higher immunity levels.
But how do we, as parents and guardians, make learning about nutrition interesting and fun for children? We’ve gathered 4 tips that will get your child interested in nutrition and have them incorporating nutritious foods into their diet in no time.
1. Start By Reading About Nutrition Together
Books are a wonderful way to introduce the subject of health and nutrition in ways that are engaging and easy to understand for young learners.
Good Enough to Eat: A children Guide to Food and Nutrition by Lizzie Rockwell explains all the nutrition groups, which foods contain which nutrients, how much of each nutrient children bodies need, and how the body goes about digesting nutrients. Rockwell has also included child-friendly recipes that parents and children can make together (more on cooking together later).
For younger learners, aged 2 – 5 years, Babaroo the Alien and the Magic of Healthy Food: A Funny Children’s Book about Good Eating Habits by Kate Melton will engage children with the sweet story of a curious alien who, upon his first visit to Earth, learns about the difference between junk food and healthy eating.
And if you have a picky eater, he or she may enjoy Charlie and Lola: I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato by Lauren Child, which tackles the subject of picky eating in a loving and entertaining way.
2. Plant a Garden
If you have the time and space, planting a garden and letting children see the fruits and veggies they eat grow right before their eyes is a wonderful way to make them a part of the healthy eating process.
Even if you don’t have the space for a large garden, a single fruit or vegetable plant in a pot on an outdoor porch or sunny windowsill can provide tons of educational value. Visit the children Gardening Website for plenty of helpful information on starting your own container garden.
3. Take children Grocery Shopping
Including children in the meal creation process is a great way to get them to engage with the ingredients they’ll be eating. Remind children that their goal on any day is to “eat the rainbow”—to consume fruits and vegetables of every color—then let them go on a scavenger hunt in the produce department, searching for healthy foods in every color group.
Another fun activity for your burgeoning nutritionist—let them play food critic to an unfamiliar fruit or veg. Have them select a new-to-them item, then bring it home and print off this fun Food Critic Activity, published by the United States Department of Agriculture. Children can fill out the page critiquing their veggie or fruit of choice. It’s a great way to encourage children to try new things without the expectation of eating an entire serving.
4. Get the children in the Kitchen
If this tip sounds familiar, it should—we discussed it in our blog explaining how to instill healthy eating habits in children. But it is worth mentioning again because it is integral to children understanding where the meal that ends up on their plate comes from.
Have children help you make the menu for the week, choosing between two or three options (“Would you like to make green beans, cheesy cauliflower, or roasted squash to go with dinner tomorrow?”) Giving children control over what they eat increases the likelihood they’ll actually consume the dish once dinnertime arrives.
And don’t forget to have them help with meal prep. As you create dishes, talk to your children about the nutrition in each ingredient and why you choose healthier ingredients over less healthy options. This recipe for sugar-free banana muffins is a great example—while you’re mixing the batter, you can discuss with your child why using naturally sweet bananas instead of added sugar is better for your health. The same goes for the flour option—the recipe calls for whole-wheat flour instead of over processed white flour.
At the end of the day knowledge is power, and helping children understand why certain foods are more nutritious than others set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating and wise food choices.
Thanks for reading,
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