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Getting Your Kids Excited About Healthy Foods

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When I was little, I had no concept of where my food came from.  I just knew that my mom went to the store and came back with lots of things for my family to eat.  I never thought about the journey my food went through to make it into the store and eventually onto my plate. 
Over the past few years I got interested in starting a garden.  I like the idea of growing my own food, and I also like my kids being involved in the process of planting, taking care of, and eventually eating the fruits and vegetables from our own backyard.  I think that gives them a much greater appreciation for what food goes through to make it to our table.  Last year we started small with two container gardens.  This year we are expanding to a small raised bed in the backyard (and who knows where we might go from there!)  I let the kids help decide what we are going to plant and they help with watering, weeding, and picking the produce when it’s ripe.  They get so excited about the food we grow, and would much rather eat it than just about anything else.  It’s a great way to teach them something and develop healthy habits at the same time.
Studies show that children are more likely to eat the foods they grow, choose at the grocery store, and/or prepare. These activities often expand the variety of foods they enjoy and can mean a wider range of nutrients consumed. It is also a good tactic for children who are picky eaters.”
My kids love helping me cook.  That’s one area where I’m trying to develop more patience.  I spend a fair amount of time cooking, but I like to do everything myself so that it gets done as quickly as possible.  When the kids help, it slows down the process and speeds up the mess, but it’s worth it.  My kids are more likely to eat something they helped make because they feel pride in it, and also because they are sure of exactly what’s in it.   (“Mom can’t sneak in some mushrooms or zucchini if she knows I’m watching!”)
Whether your children learn about about food through gardening, meal preparation or just talking about healthy eating, parents are the best teachers and examples.  Establishing healthy habits early will help your kids develop habits to last a lifetime.  Check out Tips, Tricks and Treats to Teach Kids to Cook and A Parent’s Guide to Nutrition for Kids for more ideas. 
Do you agree that healthy eating habits begin at home?  How do you teach the young people in your life to develop an appreciation for healthy food?   

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I wish I knew how to get my ten year old to eat healthy. She cooks, but won't eat what she cooks and I tried gardening, but she wouldn't eat what she grew (other than occasional mint leaves). She considered a garden to be a chore.

I can't say that she stuffs her face with unhealthy foods since she doesn't like soda, candy, cake or even fast food (other than Chick-Fil-A). Report
Yes I do think healthy eating starts at home. My grandson loves most vegetables and fruit so Ii make him fruit salad when he come over. Report
My kids are adults now, but interestingly it wasn't until they were old enough (mid-teens) to want to make their own food decisions that they really started branching out. They would try what friends were eating or make their own choices in restaurants or even, in my DDa's case, learn how to cook something and then experiment.

Because of marital problems and divorce, when they were smaller, food was getting turned into a battleground. (... I kicked my EX out one time when he took out his anger at me on our son for refusing to eat something with ground beef mixed in. He could be furious at me, but he wasn't going to yell at our son about food.)

I think these suggestions are great because they get kids involved rather than feeling like food isn't something they're involved with other than being told they have to eat what is served. Report
Fantastic ideas Jen, good luck with your garden. Report
I always got my children to eat healthy foods by putting a sign on it that read "MOM'S DIET FOOD - DO NOT EAT." Of course, they HAD to have it then. Report
I've been letting my boys cook with me since they were fiddlers and could stir or sprinkle things. At 10 my oldest has a few dishes he can make himself. He just crossed over into boyscouts and got to be the head of his cookgroup for a campout. The requirement was to plan, shop for, and lead 5 other boys in preparing 3 meals. He had to show that they met nutritional guidelines. I had to laugh when I saw all his specialties on the menu! Imagine how proud he was when he realized there were older boys who had trouble with this! Report
I started talking about healthy choices with my now 6-year-old when she was three and four... it took a long time to soak in, but now, she's got a pretty good grasp of what's healthy! It's taking longer with her little sister, but I have confidence the same techniques work. We don't talk about losing weight, fattening foods, or bad for you things, we talk about what's healthier, about how the things we eat help us grow stronger. It's working! She understands that less-than-healthy foods are okay in little bits, and her favorite food is salad! Report
Sometimes when I get students at school to help me schlepp stuff around, I reward them with their choice of an apple or some baby carrots. Because I only have healthful foods in my fridge at school! Report
My youngest is picky when it comes to veggies. The funny thing is that he will eat veggies right out of the garden, but as soon as we bring them in the house and prepare them, he won't. He does love fruit though! Report
My parents grew most of their own veggies, and I think it really gave me an appreciation & a love for healthy foods. I wish I could have my own garden! Report
They may dislike gardening, but I bet they love the food from the garden. Report
Our kids help in the garden when they were young they are in their 40's now and still dislike gardening. Report
It's definitely a great idea to get kids involved in cooking and growing food. They really are more likely to eat what they grow and what they prepare themselves. They learn healthy habits AND life skills! Report
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