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As moms, we do our best to provide the healthiest foods for our children. Of course, we can’t control everything they put in their mouths, but at least what they get at home is healthy. That is more important than we realize. Nutrition really is the cornerstone of health. It is true from conception all the way until death. Unfortunately, in the US especially, our children seem to be affected by the compromised food supply and constant bombarding of junk food advertising by the media. Obesity has become epidemic not only in adults, but also in children; and diseases that only used to affect adults, like type 2 diabetes, are beginning to show up at younger and younger ages.
So I was thinking about how to make choosing healthy foods fun and wanted to share a few ideas you may want to try with your kiddos over the winter months.
We all get grocery store circulars in the mail or Sunday newspaper. Instead of throwing them out after you’ve gone through them, here’s a great activity you could try. Draw a line down the middle of a large piece of poster board. Title one column “Yes” foods and the other “No” foods. You could also do a “thumbs up” sign or smiley face on one side and a “thumbs down” or frowning face on the other.
If they are old enough, give them the circulars, scissors and glue, and if they’re too young to do it alone, do this with them. Have them cut out pictures from the circulars of foods and then decide which where they belong. Once they have their pictures sorted out they can glue them under the appropriate heading. It’s also a perfect opportunity to discuss their choices as well as looking at some foods that may not immediately seem to belong in a particular column. You can discuss those and decide where they should go and why.
Especially with the younger children it is fun to have them guess where their whole, “one-ingredient” foods came from. You can do this at various times of the year. For example if you made pumpkin muffins, you can ask where pumpkins come from – a vine in a patch. Visit a pumpkin patch if there is one near you. Apples grow on trees. Apple picking is fun, and there are orchards all over the place to visit. Potatoes grow underground, milk comes from cows. You get the idea. A field trip to a farmer’s market is a great place to expose your children to fresh, whole foods. They’ll see some unfamiliar veggies which could spark some interesting discussions.
You could try an alphabet game for the older children. Have them come up with one or two healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner foods for each letter of the alphabet. There are also many wonderful books for all ages at your local library. Three that come to mind are The Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham and Eat Your Peas.
Letting your older children help you with your shopping list is a great way to incorporate nutrition and math skills. Give them the budget for the shopping trip and the circulars and see what they come up with to create a week’s worth of meals.
I have always been a huge proponent of getting my children involved in planning and preparing meals. They got to choose a dish that appealed to them. They learned how to measure ingredients they shopped for, learned the different skills and cooking techniques required and how to follow the recipe. By taking ownership of the whole process they became much more open to trying new foods – especially my two pickier eaters.
EatRight.org has some fun activities like nutrition Sudoku and word searches you can use with your children. There’s also a customizable mobile game that allows you to focus on achieving one goal called SuperBetter. They can enjoy the satisfaction of conquering daily “quests” (like going the whole day without refined sugar). They can even personalize the “bad guys” they beat like their favorite cookies or ice cream.
I’d love to know your favorite, fun ways to get your children interested in healthy eating. It is a skill that will last and extend their lives.
Ann Musico is a certified holistic health coach, independent nutritional consultant, author of Today is Still the Day and other books. She works with women of all ages to empower them to live well so they can model health and wholeness – spirit, soul and body – to their families and beyond. Visit her website at www.annmusico.com to learn about the coaching options and weight loss plans she offers as well as numerous free resources you can access.