Good habits start early, and there’s perhaps no better habit to cultivate than by incorporating proper nutrition and healthy eating into your diet. It’s well proven that poor or insufficient nutrition as a child can lead to serious diseases later on in life. The University of Michigan lists out a few of these illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, liver problems, and much more.
Proper nutrition is especially important for young people, but it can be difficult getting them interested in the topic. Previously in our post ‘Rethinking the Way We Talk About Nutrition, Body Size, and Health’, we talked about opening conversations with students about health and wellness.
Discussion of these topics should always center children’s health, but it can be difficult for kids to understand how to actively make these decisions on their own. Below, we’ve compiled a few tips that can help students learn to cultivate healthier eating habits on their own.
Get them involved
Psychology Today says that one of the best ways to get kids to be more interested in what they’re eating is to simply get them involved. The more active participation a student has in their own meals, the more likely they’ll be aware of what they should be putting into their bodies and why.
While it may sound like this is something only parents can do, educators can show cooking videos from popular YouTube channels to help stimulate more interest in the process. Show and tell activities of healthy dishes, perhaps from different cultures, can also be used to stimulate discussion about how children can benefit from eating properly.
Tell them where they can get their nutrition
Children can understand, and at many times enjoy the benefits of eating healthily, but sustaining that interest can be tough. One way to do it is to show them how food makes it from the farm to their tables. How do we get our nutrition? What are the most popular ways? Students will be familiar with whole food items that come from the grocery, but do they know how it’s grown?
You can even bring up alternative nutrition sources, and explain why some people will opt to go for those. For example, superfood blend distributor Brightcore suggest that there many ways you can take in nutrition, including from whole food and from powder or supplement forms. Conversations about sources can empower children to think about their food more mindfully. Giving your students a peek into the world of food production, and bringing up topics like organic food and sustainable sourcing, can help them better understand why it’s so important to eat more healthfully. You can do this through video documentaries, field trips, or even invite farmers and other food producers to give a short talk in class.
Show them what food can do
Another way to stimulate students’ interest is to provide them with information about what they’re eating. This requires a bit of creative thinking on the part of the educator, as simply talking about which foods have what vitamins may not be enough to stimulate interest. A fun way to integrate knowledge of food’s many benefits with students’ daily lives is to explore what else common food products can do.
For example, a common ingredient like apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be made more interesting when students are able to explore its different uses. A classroom experiment with a foodstuff like this can help integrate health with natural science subjects, and stimulate kids to explore other uses for other foods. They can even be motivated to open discussions with their parents or guardians about other uses for food, and understand more about health and the natural world in the process.
There are so many ways to encourage children to be more hands on with food. In my own household we like to watch ‘Kids Baking Championship‘ and for a brief moment my own kids future aspirations switch from You-Tuber to top chef! Hoping to cultivate their appreciation of food I bought my sons a copy of Milk Bar: Kids Only (Over 85 stellar, totally do-able desserts and other fun-fueled treats for kids (or adults!) to make, from Christina Tosi, founder of Milk Bar and MasterChef Junior judge!) My boys recently compiled a list of fun recipes to try over spring break and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them in the kitchen exploring food.