There are so many things you want to teach your kids: to be polite, wash their hands, keep their rooms clean. But what are you teaching your kids about food? In the past 30 years it seems food has been largely forgotten or simply taken for granted. Part of the reason the obesity epidemic is as bad as it is, is because at some point we stopped learning about food and we became so busy with our daily lives that we turned to convenience foods. We let other people make our food and we don’t know where it comes from, who made it, or what’s in it.

It’s a vicious cycle. If our parents weren’t around to teach us how to cook or relied on convenience foods, that is what we know and what we will inevitably pass on to our children. We need to break that cycle. We are now learning what the industrial food system has done to our health, and we are beginning to make positive changes. Knowledge is power and it’s extremely important to teach your children about food.

The Five most important things to teach your kids about food:

  1. What real food is. Real food does not come in a box and does not have a label or a long ingredient list full of words you can’t pronounce. Real food should be the rule, “food-like” substances should be the exception. 
  2. You are what you eat. You’ve heard it a million times, and that’s because it’s true. Eating a lot of food that isn’t good for you will make you feel, well, not good! Teach your kids that choosing healthy foods will help them in school, improve their soccer game, and give them more energy to play with their friends (as if they need it!).
  3. How to cook. You don’t need to be Martha Stewart and you don’t need to make your kids into mini Jamie Olivers (although, it would be great if you could!) but you do need to teach your kids the basic skills for how to prepare healthy food. Get them involved in the grocery shopping and in the kitchen, and show them that cooking is fun! 
  4. To listen to hunger and fullness cues. It may seem obvious that part of the obesity problem comes from overeating, but why do we overeat? Overeating usually occurs when we override our fullness cues, when we pay attention to our eyes and eat until the food is gone rather than stopping when our bodies are telling us that we’ve had enough. Help your child listen to their body by letting them decide when they’re finished eating, and never force your child to finish what’s on their plate. 
  5. Where their food comes from. Take your kids to your local farm and ask to go on a tour. Show your kids where lettuce and potatoes come from. Your kids will be more interested in the food and more likely to eat those foods if they know more about what they’re eating. Starting a backyard garden or even a windowsill herb garden is a great way to get the kids involved in gardening. They will love to watch their plants grow and it’s a great way for you to teach them how to use that food from “farm” to table. 

And remember, the best way to teach your kids about healthy foods is to be a good role model!

Janine Bolton

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