Children learn from their parents. If you want your kids to eat responsibly take a look at what you are putting on your own plate. Make smart food choices a family affair and make it fun for everyone at the same time. Show by example that sensible eating is both a necessity and a pleasure.
Teach Farm to Table
Take your kids to farmers markets to learn about where food is grown. One of my favorite family outings in the summer was to the weekly farmers’ market to select fresh peaches, strawberries, green beans, summer tomatoes and just picked corn, some of my favorite foods today,
If you don’t live in near a farming community, or if your city does not offer farmers markets, buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the supermarket rather than canned. Post a calendar in the kitchen showing when fruits and vegetables are in season so your kids can learn when plant foods are at their freshest.
Some of my favorite childhood memories include helping my mother cook. Usually this involved baking but also I mixed casseroles, sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes. Helping my mother cook taught me about portioning ingredients and measurements and understanding what goes into preparing a meal.
Cooking together should be inclusive for both your daughters and sons. Some of the most popular chefs on food television are men, and their biggest fans are boys and men. Give everyone a kitchen assignment based on age appropriateness and skills.
Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand
Slice fresh fruits and vegetables and place in single serving snack bags. Mix dried fruits, unsweetened cereals, fresh or roasted unsalted nuts (unless there are nut allergies) and dark chocolate chips for an easy, delicious trail mix.
Spread nut butter on slices of apples, or, drizzle fresh honey if a child has a nut allergy. Sauté canned chickpeas in olive oil, salt and pepper for a toasty snack. Mix Greek yogurt with hot sauce for a low fat spicy dip, or mash with avocado, salt and pepper.
Make dining a family occasion
People have asked me my favorite childhood food memories. It was around the dinner table. My parents made dining out a family occasion and an adventure. We tried different restaurants and cuisines. I always chose dishes from the “adult menu” even if I couldn’t finish it all. I loved learning about foods of the world!
There were no separate kid menus or table. We didn’t eat in front of the television, standing up, or sitting in a car. There was no technology at the table; it didn’t exist. We sat and ate together and talked. Family meals are some of my favorite memories.
If your family meals are an enjoyable exchange, and the food is fresh, flavorful and nutritious, you’ve set more than a table. You’ve set an example that will make a long term impact on how your children will appreciate good food.