8 Things We Need to Teach our Kids about Food

Raising kids is hard. There are so many life lessons we need to teach them in order to mold their minds and bodies into healthy adults. While calculus and balancing a checkbook are challenging life lessons for kids, teaching kids about food isn’t hard. However, it does take time. I thought I would share a few things we need to teach our kids about food so you could get started with your own children.

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Things We Need to Teach our Kids About Food

 

8 Things We Need to Teach our Kids about Food

Making healthy food choices is a concept that you need to start introducing when children are young. And  you need to incorporate these healthy food concepts into your own life in order to model smart food habits that your kids will want to follow.

Teaching kids about healthy foods starts with YOU making good choices about healthy foods!

Just because a food is brightly colored does not mean it tastes better.

Neon blue sports drinks would not taste any different if they took out the ‘blue’. Do not base your perception of a food based on it’s color. Unless nature created it, of course. Then I am all for vibrant colors in my food!

Teaching kids about food

Most of your diet should be made of food that IS an ingredient, not that CONTAINS ingredients.

The best way to teach our kids about healthy food is to take them to the grocery store with you when you shop. I know, moms of toddlers are hating me right now. However,  your child will never understand how to shop for healthy foods if they don’t go with you! Lets teach kids to make healthy choices when they are young so that when presented with a shopping cart and a credit card they know how to do it right.

Healthy Recipes for Kids

Don’t be fooled by the front of the box. 

Manufacturers have been know to write all sorts of things on the front of their packages to fool people into thinking it is healthy. Things like ‘Contains natural ingredients’. How vague can we get, right? Lets teach our kids to flip the box over. Read the back label where the actual nutrition information and ingredients are listed. THAT is what the brands don’t always want you to see. Hence the really tiny print.

By Alan Cleaver (Flickr: Lose weight now) [CC-BY-2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t get caught up in ‘diets’. 

The key to a health lifestyle is not getting caught up in the word ‘diet’. Instead of counting calories, avoiding carbs, or trying to sweat off the weight with the next greatest exercise equipment, just concentrate on making smart choices.

Eat when you are hungry. Get some sort of exercise daily. Make 80% of your food intake ‘good, wholesome, natural food’ and then don’t worry so much about the other 20%. Go for a walk and eat a cookie. Don’t play video games all day and eat 12 cookies. Like Michael Pollan said  in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”.

Don’t get sucked into the next big promotion. 

Just because Taylor Swift is drinking Diet Coke and Dora the Explorer is on your box of cereal doesn’t make them any healthier for you. This is a lesson I taught my kids VERY young. Kids are smarter than you think. My kids knew the phrase ‘marketing gimmick’ by the time they were 5. No way in the world was I going to buy them Sponge Bob cereal and their questions of ‘why’ were driving me nuts.

kid holding beans

You CAN grow it yourself. 

We need to teach our kids how to grow food. Even if you just show them how to put some herbs in a pot or buy a chicken or two for the back yard. Our kids need to understand where food comes from and I don’t mean the drive through lane at your local fast food restaurant.

Show them how to dig up soil, put a plant into the ground, and nurture it for a few months. Then show them how to take that food and cook it in their own kitchen. Kids who learn to garden and cook at an early age are much more likely to do those things as adults. And gardening with kids is a great way to raise eco friendly children.

Food ingredients should not be unpronounceable chemicals.

We need more people in this world who actually read the ingredient list on the box of food. My daughter came home from school one day and told me that their class learned about a popular sub sandwich restaurant that uses a chemical in their bread that is also found in yoga mats. Ewww… gross, right?

 

Her friends were all horrified. My daughter was already well aware of the questionable ingredients that food manufacturers use in their products. Antifreeze in kids drinks and beaver anal gland secretions in ice cream no longer shock her. Teach kids that if they don’t recognize an ingredient, they might not want to be eating it.

Watch this Jamie Olive video about the importance of teaching kids AND adults about food. He shares powerful stories from his anti-obesity project in Huntington, W. Va.

 

There are many people in this world who do not have enough food.

Food insecurity is a real problem in this world. And  yes, we need to do something about that. Volunteer with your kids to feed those less fortunate. There are many organizations who are trying to help feed the poor and they should be given our support. This could be in the form of a monetary donation, a few hours of volunteer time, or taking your child shopping for food donations for your local food bank.

Teaching kids about healthy food needs to start when they are young. Make sure they understand where their food comes from. Talk to them about supporting local farmers and buying local food whenever possible. While we can’t do much in our own lives about fixing our country’s broken food system, we can encourage a healthy understanding of food by our own children.

Can you think of anything else we need to teach our kids about food?

(NOTE: post updated and content added from previous publish date)


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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke!

Comments

  1. Great Tips Thanks for sharing I'm making my teens read this for real :)
  2. Great tips, I never thought of some of these. Going to share with my friends.
  3. I agree, I cannot stand how these companies use all these food coloring to make foods appealing to kids, I try to avoid buying them.
  4. These are great tips. I am trying hard to not focus on "dieting" but teaching that our 'diet' is just the way we eat. Making healthy choices now will help them in the future.
  5. Some very good points here. I try to make sure we eat real food as much as possible. I know in parts of the United States though it is less expensive to buy McDonalds then it is to buy real groceries. I know someone who grew up on canned vegetables and now rarely eats fresh vegetables because he likes the taste of canned better.
  6. Danielle K says:
    #2 and #7 are my big ones. Eating real food is so important to us and something I work hard to teach my son. Great tips - thanks for sharing :)
  7. Great tips!!! So true on the marketing ploy they do it to adults too as well.

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