How to Educate to Empower Kids to Eat Healthy (3 E's)
By Kerry Wekelo
If It Does Not Grow, Say No – Eatable Activities for Kids is a great teaching tool for adults supporting children in learning about healthy eating. Using this book with my own and other’s kids has helped me empower them to choose fruits and vegetables more often, even trying some they have never eaten before. Teaching about healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated; you can keep it super simple (KISS) with the following three E’s:
We all want to know WHY we should make certain choices. Kids need to know more about healthy eating so they too can see WHY their food choices matter.
Educating kids in small increments helps ensure each lesson drives home the learning. For example, I work in 8-week sessions with groups and we focus on just one to two facts at a time, exploring each one several ways. My kids are learning about sugar content in different foods, so we talk a lot about and read labels for sugar amounts.
Here are a few fun food facts:
• Vitamin A in carrots helps with our sight.
• Vitamin C in oranges helps our body heal when we get cut.
• B vitamins in whole grains help our body turn food into energy.
• High-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, help our digestive system break food up and move it around (and out of!) your body easily.
• Fruit has a high water content, often between 75-92%.
• The American Heart Association’s daily recommendation for sugar is no more than 12 grams for kids, 20 grams for women, and 36 grams for men.
• Sugar is addictive: the more you eat, the more you want it. It only gives you a boost of energy that goes away quickly.
• Sugar has other names, such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, dextrose, or sucrose.
Once we know the WHY, we also like to make our own CHOICES. Kids that know more about healthy eating love to make smarter eating choices. I have been amazed that by shifting the choice to the kids -- instead of adults telling them what to do -- the positive results have skyrocketed. My son, the picky eater, now willingly eats most fruits and vegetables using small bite sizes in small containers.
TIP: allow it to be okay if kids do not like a fruit or vegetable. Don’t make a big deal out of it; just let them keep trying different choices.
• Ask the following questions (use the challenge worksheets to track and incent):
o “What did it taste like?”
o “What did it feel like when you touched it? Tasted it?”
o “Did you like it?”
• Provide multiple fruit and vegetable choices per meal
• Involve your kids in the shopping and selection process
• Cook together and make up recipes. (Even if it tastes gross, it will be a fun learning activity!)
Kids’ taste buds are constantly changing and expanding. I personally cannot keep up with what my two kids like and dislike, as it often changes weekly. The number one tip for facilitating kids’ healthy eating is to have them keep trying healthy foods. Even if they did not like something in the past, chances are if you prepare it a different way or catch them in an adventurous mood, your kids may surprise you and like it after all.
Supporting your kids towards healthy food choices takes work and effort, yet it serves everyone to eat a rainbow of food daily. Try these additional tips:
• Cut fruit and vegetables into small bite-sized portions
• Present them in a small glass or colorful bowls (presentation is everything!)
• Encourage them to create designs with food
• Allow messiness
• Eat as a group as often as possible, and talk at the table about what you are each grateful for.
Kerry Alison Wekelo Mother. Wife. Visionary
Kerry is Award-Winning Author, Founder of Zendoway, Creator of Zendoway Cubes and Managing Director at Actualize Consulting.
In addition to If It Does Not Grow – Just Say No, she has authored “Audrey’s Journey” a children’s book series focused on living with compassion and joy, and “Pile of Smile Activity Book” to give away free while the children undergo treatment.