By Allison Davis
As a mom of a very energetic and inquisitive seven year old, I know firsthand how kids are eager to learn and love getting involved in everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking and gardening. Though this may seem mundane to parents, it can be a great learning opportunity. Here are my top ten easy ways to teach your kids about nutrition and to encourage healthy lifestyle habits.
1. Be your kid's role model
The best way to teach children healthy habits is to practice healthy habits. Kids are some of the most observant creatures on the planet. They watch everything you do and eventually adopt the behaviors they see. So don’t say “Eat your veggies” unless you have a full helping of greens on your plate as well.
2. Go shopping
The grocery store is a classroom for all ages! Reading, math, science, the labels and produce sections make for an excellent learning environment. Let children pick a new fruit, vegetable, or herb to try. If they’re involved, they will be much more likely to try a new food.
3. Explore new foods
Since my daughter has been old enough to eat, we have a household rule of trying something new every day. It could be as simple as her combining two familiar flavors but she is constantly telling me about her new food. The more foods you introduce to children, the greater the variety of foods they will eat as adults. Consider having a theme night, with ethnic food, complete with music from that culture. Older kids can research that part of the world and share fun facts at dinner.
4 .Plan meals together
Part of eating a healthy diet is pairing foods together to get a variety of nutrients. Let older children help plan meals. Challenge your child to help you plan a meal with one whole grain, two vegetables, and three ounces of meat. For younger children, let them help you choose a plate full of colors (red strawberries, green broccoli, yellow corn, and brown chicken).
5. Get cooking
As a chef instructor and kid’s culinary camp provider, I know the benefits of involving children in the cooking process. Though it does require a little patience and time, cooking with your child offers many opportunities to learn, bond, establish a lifelong interest in food and nutrition and build confidence in self sustainability.
6. Eat as a family
Kids like routines, and regular meals eaten as a family provide needed structure and reassurance. Family meals are also a perfect opportunity to talk about events from the day and to reconnect as a family. Some research has even suggested that children who eat regular family meals are less likely to be overweight.
7. Start a garden
Gardening helps kids understand the full circle of life, teaches responsibility, and provides daily physical activity. If you don’t have a green thumb, start with a pot of herbs, such as rosemary or basil. Your child will enjoy watching them grow, and then picking and cooking with the herbs.
8. Be active together
Walking after dinner or taking a bike ride on the weekends allows everyone to exercise. It also provides family time to catch up and bond.
9. Take field trips
Visit a farmers’ market, talk to the farmers about how they grow food, and let your child pick out fresh fruits and vegetables. ‘U Pick’ farms and orchards around the areas often have a ton of activities geared to children.
10. Schedule and plan in advance
Just like adults, kids are busy people, so start a family activity calendar. Prior to the start of each week, let each family member pencil in when and how they plan to be physically active.
Here's three recipes that are sure to be kid pleasers:
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs (for gluten free substitute use almond meal or rice cracker crumbs)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices zucchini (about 2 small)
Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place milk in a shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place coated slices on an ovenproof wire rack coated with cooking spray; place rack on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.
Summer Squash Caprese Noodle Salad
4-6 zucchini/yellow squash (to yield 5 cups julienned)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
Chop the ends off of the zucchini and make zucchini and squash noodles using a vegetable spiralizer. (a julienne peeler will work if you do not have a spiralizer)
Combine the cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl.
Toss the squash with the tomato mixture and place onto a flat dish or into a bowl to serve.
(For a warm dish, steam the squash “noodles” for approximately 2 minutes. Remove the squash from the steamer pot, and allow it to sit in the basket over a plate to drain for 1- minutes before combing with the tomato mixture.
Cauliflower Mashed Faux-Tatoes
2 heads of cauliflower
2 TBSP Coconut Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP Butter (optional)
Cut up and steam cauliflower until the fork can easily puncture the vegetable. Place soft cauliflower on parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven with 2 TBSP of coconut oil. Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
Add cauliflower to food processor. Pulse cauliflower until creamy texture.
Top with salt, pepper, chives and optional butter. Enjoy. If the consistency is still to thick and not creamy, add a tablespoon of cream to the mixture