Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teaching Your Kids the Value of Real Food

This article is contributed by Heather Green.
real food

Picture courtesy of Stonyfield Organic


It only takes a plate of cookies to get a room full of kids excited.
Or a bag full of candy. Or event just a box of "fruit snacks." The
typical diet for most children is loaded with sugary, processed foods, from cereals to juice boxes to gummy snacks. You won't see too many kids on the playground trading these lunchbox staples for a bag of carrot sticks or a handful of grapes.

Fortunately, there are many ways to teach your children the value of real food so they don't become accustomed to SAD foods like processed and sugary treats. Here are some ways that you can help your children understand the value of real, healthy food:

Visit Local Farms

Help your children learn the source of their foods by visiting local
farms. When children always get their food from a box or a bag, they
become unable to identify real, whole ingredients or their source.
Taking them on tours of local farms will help them understand how
produce is grown and harvested, how animals are raised, and how the
food goes from farm to table. The visit can teach children the role
that food plays in health (particularly the difference between
processed and whole foods), the value of food (based on the resources
used to grow and attain it), and the impact of local farming on the
economy.

Grow a Garden

Growing a garden together can help your child better understand how food makes it to the table - other than just taking it out of the
refrigerator. You can teach children the value of food based on the
hard work required to grow it and talk to them about the value of
eating fresh foods, grown in season, and raised without the use of
chemicals. When children grow their own food, they also become more invested in the process and can feel more excited about enjoying their harvest. They will be more interested in eating something that they've grown than something that they took out of a box.

Cook Together

After they've learned to grow their own food, the next logical step is for children to learn how to cook it. When children know how to cook food, they can develop a love and appreciation for experimenting with different foods and trying out new creations. When children learn to love cooking, they don't grow into adults who turn to fast food and processed, microwavable dinners. If children aren't taught how to cook, they often become adults who are intimidated by the kitchen and who fear trying to make anything that requires more than boiling and adding a seasoning packet.

Help your children learn to love food and to delight in experimenting with new flavors and new creations.

Learn to Read Labels

Not everyone can cook a meal from scratch every day, three times a
day. We sometimes need to buy foods that are already prepared.

Who wants to make your own pasta? We often need to buy prepared
ingredients to make dishes at home. Again, who wants to make your own mayonnaise? Or mustard? (OK, maybe some of you do, but most of us don't have that kind of time!)

To help kids understand how to make the best choices, teach them how to read food labels. Explain how to evaluate the ratio of ingredients by the order in which they are listed. Point out the common names for ingredients that contain sugar or harmful oils. Note dangerous ingredients that are linked to cancer or other illnesses. Help them decipher claims that a product is "heart healthy" or "low in sugar" by getting the facts from the ingredient list and nutritional content.

Get your children to help you with the grocery shopping so that they can practice this knowledge and get your guidance on the best choices. The more they understand about the harmful chemicals and processed ingredients in many packaged foods, the better they will understand the value of choosing real food.

Learning to love real foods isn't always an easy process. Many of us
are so used to a diet of convenience foods and sugar-and-fat-laden
foods that we don't want to spend time cooking a meal or don't enjoy
the flavor without all the additives. Instilling a love of real foods
in your children will help them develop lifelong healthy habits.

About the Author:

Heather Green is a freelance writer for several regional magazines in
North Carolina and resident blogger for onlinenursingdegrees.org. Her writing experience includes fashion, business, health, agriculture and a wide range of other topics. Heather has just completed research ononline BSN nursing programs and online LPN programs.

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