Get Kids Involved in Their Nutrition – So They Can Enjoy Eating Food That Fuels Their Brains and Bodies
Whether you are a parent or caregiver for a child, you can help raise healthy eaters by teaching the basics of healthful nutrition and eating skills during these formative years. Helping kids understand how food fuels their busy, strong bodies and sharp brains, as well as the social aspect of enjoying meals with family and friends can start right now.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing physical activity habits. They offer the following guidelines for caregivers:
Model the enjoyment of healthful foods
Serve balanced meals and snacks with a variety of nutrient-rich choices
Explore a variety of flavors and foods
Prepare meals together
Remove distractions at meals – be present to one another
Keep meal times calm, so adults and children can talk together
Allow children to use their internal signals to decide when they are hungry or full
Invite children to help make choices, from healthful selections you have on hand
Teach hand washing, an example of food safety, as a preparation for every meal or snack
Make use of reliable food and nutrition resources when you do not have the answers*
The more that children are involved in growing, selecting and/or preparing nutritious foods, the more informed they will be about how to make healthful food choices now and for years to come. You can foster this knowledge on your next trip to the grocery store. Here’s how:
Teach children to categorize food into groups of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy and protein as you choose items to purchase. Invite new foods by allowing children to select a new fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit each grocery store visit. Allow kids to pick a “tall” vegetable like asparagus, or a “cabbage family” vegetable like broccoli or cauliflower.
Older children can help with menu planning and preparing the shopping list to include foods needed for the meals you have planned.
Consider a garden. Planting, caring for and picking produce offers many opportunities to engage children in nutrition. It’s a fun activity that gives everyone the chance to get outside, get their hands dirty and enjoy what has grown. You’ve got to love that!
Thankfully the Academy recognizes that, like other areas of child-rearing, no one does a perfect job on nutrition. So, try your best. Do this in a way that works for you and our family. And remember, it is always ok to begin again.
*For more information, you can visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website
Cheri Timmons is a Greensboro Downtown Parks program partner. The work she does with us is critical to providing FREE wellness programming to our park community. As we make our way through these unprecedented times, consider how you might support local Greensboro non-profits like us, as well as local businesses, artists, entrepreneurs like Cheri, makers, and more. We'll continue to bring you free programming through our digital platforms and look forward to having you join us and Cheri back in the parks soon!