Making healthy food choices is an important skill for kids to learn early in life. Modelling is probably the most effective way to teach our kids to eat a well-balanced diet, but there are many other ways to help them learn more about responsible eating habits as well.
I would like my children to develop a positive relationship with food. I want them to enjoy eating, but I also want them to see food as a tool to nourish their bodies so they can do wonderful work in the world.
If we are well-fed and healthy, we have more energy to create, fulfil our responsibilities, and help others. Preparing healthy food is also a wonderful service we can provide our families and communities!
Responsible eating can require many different character traits: moderation, self-discipline, organisation, and even creativity.
I see learning about responsible eating in two parts. First is learning what foods are good for our bodies. Second is learning how to purchase and prepare healthy foods. Here are a few tips and resources that are helping me encourage responsible eating habits in my kids.
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Use the “red light, green light” system.
We love the book Eat Healthy, Feel Great by Dr Sears. It not only introduces many concepts related to healthy eating but offers a very relatable system for making healthy food choices. Foods are described as green light (great for your body! eat as much as you like!), yellow light (not as nourishing, eat with moderation) and red light (not nutritious at all! best to avoid!). My kids really relate to this system and it’s been very helpful in situations when I need to help them understand why we are making certain meal choices.
Teach them to “eat a rainbow.”
I love the concept of “eating a rainbow” which I learned from the awesome Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit. Over dinner my boys enjoy recalling what fruits and veggies they have eaten during the day. If they haven’t eaten all the colours we try to find something to help them eat their rainbow that day. Even if it’s one slice of cucumber or a piece of spinach, the concept of eating fruits and vegetables of all colours encourages them to try new fresh produce which is a step forward! I have definitely seen over time how trying little bits of new foods develops their taste buds.
Get them involved with the shopping.
Making a shopping list (especially with little hand-drawn pictures of items we need to buy) is great for encouraging the kids to help me find things as we shop. This has been a fun way to include them in the experience of grocery shopping, and also helps them become more aware about what we are buying. I add more to the discussion by asking them to check prices, asking how much we may need for a week (i.e. number of apples), thinking about what we may have left out of our cart, asking them if we need more “green light foods,” etc.
Learn about how food grows.
So far we have only grown herbs, but I would love to eventually plant some other vegetables with my kids. Visiting a farm is also on my “to do” list for school holidays so I am looking forward to finding some local farms and giving the boys the opportunity to explore the topic of how our food is grown. By shopping at local markets, I hope to also encourage their love of locally grown produce.
What kid doesn’t enjoy cooking?! From baking muffins to simply assembling a fruit kebab, kids learn a lot from being involved in food preparation. I am looking forward to giving my boys The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook – I have it hidden away for an upcoming gift! I would love my boys to appreciate more foods from around the world, and they love to prepare new dishes together, so I think this will be a fun way to combine cultural experience with cooking capacity.
I hope these activities will contribute to helping my kids establish habits of choosing healthy foods. Buying and preparing high quality food can, after all, be expensive and feel overwhelming at times. However I want them to understand the importance of nourishing our bodies with good food and see it as an investment in lifelong health. As I discuss healthy eating with them, I am also inspired to take a look at my own habits!
Off to get some carrot sticks for a snack…
Do you have any tips to help kids develop responsible eating habits?
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