Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy Foods


 
          About two weeks ago, I was asked by Cooking with the Troops CEO, Blake Powers, to volunteer at a Marine & Family Holiday Dinner and provide some type of nutritional education for children.  Of course, I jumped at this opportunity.  But in preparation for the event, I initially struggled with deciding on what to present to the kids.  All of the scientific topics I’m used to discussing were definitely out of the window.  After spending a couple of days in thought, I recalled the time I spent with my niece and nephew during Thanksgiving.  While with my family, I tried to share some of my views on eating habits to encourage them to eat healthier foods (i.e. - brainwash them).  What I was reminded of was the fact that my nephew was very willing to eat healthy food, as long as it tasted good.  So, I now had my area of focus: making healthy foods taste good.  But, how could I do that in a way to get kids involved and interested?
          Well, for those that don’t know, I make the best smoothies!  But, only healthy smoothies of course!    So there it was!  I would show the kids a simple way to make healthy foods taste good: smoothies.  It is a simple way to add fruits AND vegetables into their diet, simple enough that most kids can do it on their own.

During my smoothie demonstration.
          So for my smoothie demonstration, I had the following ingredients:  V-8 Fusion (Strawberry Banana flavor), milk, strawberries, bananas, peanut butter, and SPINACH!  Why spinach?  I wanted to show the children that there a ways to make “nasty” vegetables taste good.  With my first demonstration, I added all of these ingredients together, and LOADED the blender with spinach on purpose.  Some children were reluctant to try the smoothies after seen that (LOL!).  But once they tried it, they all liked it!  Not only did they like it, they wanted more!  So, to all of their enjoyment, I kept making more smoothies. 

          Also, to make things more interactive, I gave some of the kids the chance to make their own smoothie.  This strategy reinforced how easy it is to make healthy foods taste good.  Not only were they adding fruits and peanut butter, but they were also adding spinach…by themselves!  My favorite quote from one of the kids was, “I don’t like spinach, but I like it in my smoothie!”  Once I heard that, I knew I had accomplished my goal.  Now, some of these kids will no longer associate “healthy food” with “terrible taste”.  In my opinion, that is the major deterrent that prevents some children from eating healthier foods.  Some parents also came up to me saying, "Now my kids are asking for a blender!".  As I said...mission accomplished!
Me with Cooking With The Troops CEO, Blake Powers, and my smoothie assistant for the day.  He was with me for over an hour making different smoothies!  And they say it's hard to get kids to enjoy eating healthy.  HA!
          So, what’s the take home message from this experience?  This event confirmed that kids are VERY willing to eat healthy foods, as long as they taste good.  However, it is up to parents, caregivers, and educators to provide the healthy foods and discuss with kids why it is important.  And the earlier you start, the easier it is.  Once your children know that healthy foods are better for them, you must help them avoid associating “healthy foods” with “terrible taste”.  Smoothies are a great start, but don’t stop there!  Continuously find recipes for tasty, healthy meals with vegetables to reinforce how good vegetables can taste.  As your children grow to be young men and women, they may be more likely to include vegetables in their meals and most importantly, have better health.

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

For more information on Cooking With The Troops, please visit their website: http://www.cwtt.org

9 comments:

Rebecca @ Naturally Healthy and Gorgeous said...

I think it's so important to introduce healthy eating habits into kids. They need to learn that healthy foods can taste great! Sounds like you are doing a great job!

Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

I definitely agree, and I think it's very simple to develop good eating habits with kids. Parents just don't put enough emphasis on it, partly because they don't have good eating habits themselves.

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