7 Smart Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Nutrition
Do you often wonder how you talk to your kids about nutrition? Along with offering a variety of healthy foods to your children we also encourage you to talk to them about good nutrition right from the start. What are everyday foods? How do they work to build strong and healthy bodies full of energy to run and play. What are sometimes foods? How do they fit in as part of normal eating?
It can be tricky to talk to them in just the right way in order to foster interest and learning without forming lots of rules around food. The aim is to build positive food associations from the start and encourage them to make healthy food choices on their own as they grow up – because they want to not because they have to. For young babies, read books and take them food shopping talking to them about what they can see. For older kids associate foods with their own strengths and interests. Talk to them about how meats and dairy foods help to build strong muscles and bones for playing sport – running fast and jumping high. Encourage a nutritious, wholegrain breakfast to help them concentrate at school to be able to learn exciting new things. Share with them with how fruits and vegetables keep both their insides and outsides healthy and happy.
Of course, they will probably start to ask you lots of questions too. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer. Just explain that you don’t know and you can find out the answer together.
Here are our 7 smart ways to talk to your kids about nutrition:
1. Offer a variety of foods
- This gives you an opportunity to talk about a wide variety of foods.
- Right from the start talk to them about what it is in their breakfast, lunch or dinner. So, for vegetable rice cakes talk to them about brown rice and how it is different to white rice, what vegetables they are eating, what colours they are and how fun they are to ‘crunch’.
2. Play with your food
- Let babies and toddlers touch, squish and smell their foods, particularly with new foods and at the beginning of a meal*. Talk to them about how the food feels and experiment with different variations of the same food. e.g. raw carrot sticks vs grated carrot vs steamed carrots.
- This is their way of learning what the texture is like, how it might feel in their mouth and what they will need to do to eat it.
- Make funny faces, shapes and animals out of nutritious foods – lean meats, fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals and dairy foods. This encourages them to be interact with the food which is an important step regardless of whether they actually eat it. Continue like this and they will be more and more likely to one day put it in their mouths.
- Find the hidden surprises in food.
- Make an edible necklace.
*(when kids start to play with their foods towards the end of a meal it may mean they have had enough and it is more behavioural compared to a learning process).
3. Shop with your children
- Do the grocery shopping with your kids. You don’t need to take them with you every time but it certainly encourages good eating habits.
- You can talk about the food that is going into the shopping trolley and the food that isn’t.
- Take them to growers/farmers markets where they can talk to the growers themselves.
- Let them choose fruits, vegetables or nutritious food products from a few different options to include in their meals or snacks and ask them why they chose it.
- Show your children how to check for ripeness – touch, squeeze and smell.
4. Provide positive feedback
- Praise the healthy choices your children make. “Great eating tonight”, “Well done, you’ve tried some of all that was on your plate”, “Yum, they are my favourite vegetables too”.
- ‘Copy’ your kids positive eating behaviours. If they see you doing what they’re doing, it can be one of the most powerful reinforcers for them.
- Eat the foods they are eating. If they see you eating the foods they have on their plate they are more likely to eat the same.
- Encourage your children to participate in a mealtime ritual.
5. Cook with your kids
- Rarely helpful, but always fun cooking with your kids is a fantastic opportunity to talk your kids about what you are cooking, how you are cooking and why.
- It allows them to look at the ingredients and you can discuss where food comes from.
- Kids are often keen to eat, or at least try, food that they have helped prepare – helping to develop positive food associations.
- They can help in the decision making process too, maybe helping to decide what to cook and what vegetables to include.
- You can introduce them to weights and measurements and foster fine motor skills.
- They may even touch and eat some of the food while you are preparing it – a big achievement for some fussy eaters.
6. Garden with your kids
- There are many ways to provide an opportunity to learn about nutrition through a hands-on connection to the food we eat. Kids are naturally curious about the world around them and often find great joy in helping with activities outside.
7. Read books about nutritious foods
- In addition to the many benefits reading with your children has to offer, learning about food and nutrition is one not to be missed.
- For babies and toddlers choose books that have big colourful pictures and the names of various foods, including fruits and vegetables.
- For older toddlers and preschoolers choose books that include that have a fun story with a nutrition theme within it or find one that involves their favourite characters eating and drinking.
- Explain examples of positive eating behaviours or make up little stories with in the stories. e.g. “How nice, they are all sitting together at the table eating dinner as a family. That’s how we eat our dinner too.” or “Yum, they are eating lasagna and vegetables for dinner. That’s what we’ll be having for dinner tonight.”
- Kids love to recognise things that are in their everyday lives. Ask them some questions along the way: “What are you favourite foods?” “Why are they your favourtie?” “Which foods are good for you?” They will learn a lot and so will you.
There are plenty more fun ways you can talk to your kids about food and nutrition in addition to our list above. If you have a fun idea to share, please feel free to comment below. Enjoy!Join us on Facebook for other foodie bits and pieces.