Educating Kids on Nutrition - Healthy
There are many reasons why it is important to educate our
children about proper nutrition. If you are reading this article, you probably
agree. It is important for everyone to have good nutrition for good health. Kids
in particular are growing and developing so rapidly that good nutrition plays
a major role in keeping them healthy and happy.
So how do we teach kids
about nutrition? The first step is having an educator who knows about nutrition.
Parents can have a basic knowledge of good eating habits just by learning about
the Food Pyramid, food groups, and how to read food labels. School teachers can
do the same. Another option is to have a Registered Dietitian available. Dietitians
are food experts!
It is important that kids learn about nutrition and good
eating habits at home. This can begin at a very young age, simply by the parent
or guardian teaching the types of foods. For instance, even a three-year-old can
know that an apple is a fruit and a carrot is a vegetable. Talking about this
each time a meal or snack is served is the simplest way to teach kids to identify
foods. Picture books with different foods in them can help kids learn to identify
Children also need to be taught to eat when hungry and stop when
full. Generally, all day "grazing" is discouraged; children often pay
more attention to what they are eating and have better eating habits if mealtimes
and snack times are scheduled. However, if a child says he or she is hungry and
it will be a long time before the next meal or snack, giving some fruit or vegetable
and some water will help the child to learn that eating when you are truly hungry
is important. When a child is eating a meal or snack, if he starts playing with
his food, you can ask "Are you full?" instead of just "Are you
done?" This will help teach the child that there are ways that the body tells
us when we are hungry and when we are full.
Children also need to be taught
that it is important to eat different kinds of foods. They will learn this if
various types of foods from all of the food groups are presented on a regular
basis. Try to offer a variety of foods at each meal or snack, but avoid pressuring
your child into eating one particular food. Find a food from each food group that
your child likes and alternate those foods with newer or less preferred foods
to encourage your child to try different things. Remember that children often
change their minds about food preferences!
Finally, the best way to teach
a child about good eating habits is to set a good example. Eating meals together
and eating healthy foods from different food groups will help your child to know
that you mean what you say - eating right is important! There are many other "role
models" for eating habits that your child will see - other kids, teachers,
people on T.V., etc. Setting a good foundation at home will help your child to
distinguish good eating habits from not-so-good habits.
For children going
to school, the school should be an environment that supports good nutrition, starting
in preschool and elementary school. The Food Pyramid, food groups, and reading
food labels can be taught as part of a health, physical education, or even science
curriculum. Even simply mentioning what food groups are included at a meal or
snack will help kids learn. The school cafeteria should serve meals that are nutritious
and balanced. There can even be signs in the cafeteria that label each food and
list its food group. Foods should not be regularly offered as rewards for academic
achievements or good behavior, especially unhealthy foods like candy, ice cream,
and pizza. There are many other options for rewards: stickers, prizes, a points
system, special positions like class leader, a dance party, or even extra recess
time. Some schools may require parent involvement to bring this information to
the attention of the administrators.
Another way that kids can learn about
nutrition is by having a qualified dietitian teach classes. These classes often
involve games or activities to teach food groups, portion sizes, and reading food
labels. This information will need to be reinforced at home so that it is applied
If we all work together, our kids can learn what it means to
eat healthy and grow strong. Children will only learn about nutrition if we teach
it to them. Do your part in educating kids about nutrition basics!