Kid Nutrition 101: Why and How you Should Teach your Kids About Food
Nutrition education may sound like a lot of work, and we know that moms have their hands full! But there are plenty of simple ways you can teach your children about food and nutrition that will help them to become healthy eaters for life – and will make mealtimes easier for moms, too! In this post, we’re going to talk about what it means to teach your kiddo about food and nutrition, why it’s important, and cover the ways and places you can take the opportunity to educate your child.
Nutrition education: What is it?
Nutrition education is the idea of teaching your kids about food. Easy, right? You don’t even need any special training! Research shows that teaching kids about food and nutrition at a young age can help them to grow up to make smart, healthy choices for themselves when it comes to diet. What’s cool about nutrition education is that it doesn’t have to take place in a classroom, and you can begin teaching your kids about food and nutrition before they’re even in school! It can be as simple as cooking with your child and explaining what you’re making or asking them to name fruits and vegetables in the store. We’ll talk more about how to teach your kids about food in a bit.
Why does my child need nutrition education?
When kids understand food and nutrition, they become more competent in their abilities around food, meaning they are more comfortable making, choosing, and even eating different kinds of food! Learning about food and nutrition also improves your child’s autonomy, or their ability to make smart and healthy choices for themselves when it comes to the food they eat. For example, when kids are more competent with food handling, that might mean they are more comfortable cooking and preparing their own foods as they get older. When kids have higher autonomy, they might start to choose foods for themselves that they know are good for them. Not to mention it makes meals and snacks a lot easier for parents when kids are excited to eat healthy foods!
Ways to educate: At home
Teaching kids about food can happen right in your own home, and it doesn’t need to take up extra time in the day! Try having your child help you when you cook. You can have them wash vegetables, gather ingredients, and help mix or stir as needed. While doing this, talk to them about what they’re doing, and why. Talk about the vegetables you’re using, and why they’re healthy. For example, if you’re using carrots, you might say, “Did you know that carrots have lots of vitamins and are good for your body? They also can help your eyes!” Just having your child handle touch, smell, taste and talk about foods they are eating is important and is a good learning opportunity!
Ways to educate: At the store
Taking your kid to the grocery store may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it can be a really good way for them to learn about food- and to get some help with the shopping! For example, you might send your child on “treasure hunts” in a section that you’re shopping in, saying something like, “Can you find the bananas and the cherries for me?” while you keep an eye on them. Or, let your child pick out a new vegetable or fruit the next time you go to store- it’s a great way to get them to try something new and healthy. Even something as simple as handing your child fruits and vegetables before they go into the cart is a good way to help them learn about the foods they eat.
We also recognize that right now, things are a little different, and kids may be safer at home rather than in a public place. So, take these same tips and apply them once you get home from the store! Tell kids you’ll time them in putting groceries (carefully and properly) away in their correct place, or hand little ones items as you take them out of the bag.
Ways to educate: Restaurants/take-out
Restaurants can be tricky. We often go to a restaurant or order takeout for a celebration, or just because you’re in a pinch and need something fast. But children can still enjoy a take-out or restaurant meal and learn a bit about health. For example, at a restaurant, you might ask them about their menu choice, and ask them which foods in their dish are good for them and why. If you’re ordering take-out, be sure to look at the menu online and talk to your child about it. You might ask your child to pick a dish with vegetables or ask them if they can find their favorite vegetable or fruit on the menu. Don’t forget to check out the kid’s menu- that way, you can make sure the meal they order fits their kid-size stomach!
These are just some of the ways that you can start to teach your child about food! Have you ever tried any of these strategies? Have you tried some of these that are not on this list?