Getting kids to eat nutrient dense foods is as easy as pulling teeth. With all of the media reports on television and magazine advertizing, it’s no wonder kids don’t know the correct things to eat. They are persuaded by colorful boxes and fun shaped foods. This causes a huge dilemma when it comes to their nutrition. Parents need to take a more educated active approach to feeding their children. Quick fast food meals on the go and sitting in front of the television while eating are two ways this country has had a breakdown in communicating proper nutrition. The educating starts with the parents at birth. Breast feeding will start the child off right with the correct levels of fatty acids, carbohydrates, and protein. When a child is not introduced to improper nutrition it has nothing toxic to crave or become addicted to.
Here are some creative ideas to help parents that didn’t start their child’s nutrition at birth but they want to make a change. For children age 2 to 10 try a blindfold test. Make a game out of it where you blind fold your child and get them to try different foods based on their taste and consistency, not what they look like. Most children won’t try a new food because of how it looks. It might be a strange color or shape or just not look appealing as in the case of guacamole. If you make it a fun game kids will want to play more often and you get to try almost anything on them. Write down what they loved and hated to make sure you incorporate the right ingredients in your meals. This will ensure a clean plate at the end of every meal. Be sure not to try any foods that aren’t nutrient dense. You are trying to get them on whole and raw foods so putting processed foods like cookies or crackers in the mix will only confuse them on what good nutrition is.
Another way to educate children ages 6 through 15 on proper nutrition is to have a parent/child switch night. This means they make dinner for you. Give them a list to go by of many wholesome ingredients and have them find them in the grocery store. Make sure to read all labels with them as well. This will get them to understand what ingredients are nutritious and what are processed. At home the children can put the ingredients together and a parents can assist with things like cutting of ingredients and stove preparation if necessary. The children will take pride in what they have prepared and find cooking to be more fun then necessity. This will also educate them on how to make a proper breakfast and lunch for themselves as well. Have them pick out their own ingredients for the next days breakfast from a list you have prepared. They can also pack their own lunches the night before. That will ensure they are excited about eating their lunch and not want to trade or buy lunch at school. As we are well aware school lunches lack the nutrition necessary for growing minds and bodies. They are simply fillers that don’t satisfy hunger therefore leading to snacking on junk foods like chips and cookies.
A way to expand on the parent/child switch night is having an actual dinner party with many children and parents. The kids can prepare hor d’oeuvres, appetizers, main dishes, and even desserts making sure they stay under a certain calorie count or portion size. When the children see the parents reaction to all of the delicious foods they will feel a sense of pride and want to continue eating healthfully. They may even want to make parent/child switch night happen at least once a week or more.
Parents or teachers can also give kids ages 10 through 18 a processed food to investigate. The internet is an excellent tool to use for this project. Have the child write down the ingredients on a package and individually look up every one. If the ingredient cannot be recognized as being “natural” or “healthy” they should be advised to avoid it altogether. Plus they should have them look up the effects those ingredients have on the human body, such as sugar. Even though we all know exactly what sugar is and where it comes from, we don’t necessarily know what it does to us. Teachers should have several books on hand for children to reference on body systems. When they read what ingredients they are consuming and see the sources of them, they will understand the detrimental effects they can have on their health. They need to be taught that they are made up of organic matter and need to be nourished, or fueled, by things that the body can recognize. Also have them start a chart for the foods they eat and how it makes them feel. After every meal do they feel; full or hungry, tired or energized, or have an upset stomach or easy digestion. Getting children to listen to their bodies is the best way to change their eating habits. When they realize that sugary processed foods have a negative impact on their mental and physical performance, they are less likely to indulge in them.