The kids are back in school, and fall is upon us. We are moving from outdoor meals to inside the home. Transition periods such as the seasons changing are a great time for starting healthy habits. Here are some fun and engaging tips for helping your kids develop healthy eating habits.
EAT SEASONALLY AND LOCALLY
Visit your local farmers market to experience seasonal foods with ALL your senses—see the vibrant colors, taste a peach, touch the bumpy gourds, smell the wildflower bouquets, hear the fiddlers playing.
Encourage your kids to ask the farmers about how and where the food was grown.
Allow them to pick out one new seasonal vegetable and fruit each week.
Plan a day-trip to a local farm, apple orchard or pumpkin patch to experience things firsthand.
Think about joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. When you join a farm’s CSA program, you will receive a box of fresh, seasonal, local produce and/or other food, every week or two. Consider signing up with Imperfect Produce, a CSA that finds a home for “ugly produce” and thereby prevents waste. In addition to eating yummy produce you get to see the beauty of imperfection.
Throughout the season, have your child draw pictures of the foods you try and display them as a collage on the refrigerator. At the end of the season, you will have a fun piece of art and a nice reflection of the foods you experienced together.
Use these experiences to teach your child about the connection between their food and nature’s cycles. Illustrate that it’s possible to care for their body and the earth at the same time. By eating locally and seasonally, we reduce our carbon imprint while obtaining high quality vital nutrients to fuel our bodies. This is good stuff!
BE CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN
Engage your kids in meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. The more they are involved in the meal, the more they will be interested. At the farmer’s market or store, tell them “We’re going to have stir fry tonight. Can you please help me pick out some veggies to use?”
Get your kids involved in packing their own lunch. Instead of brown bags, consider using a BPA free Bento style lunch box such as Yumbox. This a great way to learn about balanced and proportional meals.
Explore Pinterest or ask your community about their favorite fun, kid-friendly recipes such as “zoodles” (zucchini noodles), veggie tater tots, smoothie pops, fruit shish kabobs, etc.
Do you know a kid that hates bread crust? Try using sandwich cutters. They are fun and come in all shapes and sizes. They are a great addition to spicing up the lunch box!
FAMILY & COMMUNITY MEALS
If you follow just one of the tips, this is the one! Pick at least one meal per day that your family can sit down and share a meal together. This is a time you can model healthy eating behaviors, such as eating slowly, enjoying your food and stopping when you are full. Evidence shows that kids who eat meals with their family have increased communication skills, less anxiety, higher self-esteem, increased academic performance and improved nutrition.
Consider hosting or organizing a monthly or quarterly event centered around sharing food with your extended family, friends and community.