There has been a lot of research recently about the need to change our strategies when it comes to convincing our children to eat healthier and try new foods. The American Council of Exercise (A.C.E.) published a quick list of tips and tricks, some old some new, that show parents optimum ways to introduce their children to different healthy foods and meals. Amongst the popular tricks like eating as a family, modeling healthy habits, and limiting the amount of television, were some tricks that read rather interesting. New ideas for this life’s generation of children included: letting children choose their portion sizes, exploiting similarities, and making healthy eating fun. Studies show that if you allow your children to choose how much of a food they put on their plate they are less likely to develop “picky eater” habits and can grow into eating the food on their own accord. By exploiting similarities, parents can introduce their families to foods that are similar to foods they have already accepted. If they have grown to enjoy a certain vegetable, as a parent you are more likely to introduce other new foods of similar shapes, colors, and tastes. Lastly comes making healthy eating fun. The article suggests growing foods you consume in a garden so the children feel a sense of accomplishment, allowing them to help cook or shop for the foods you eat so they feel more involved and can learn to truly appreciate food for what it is: a way to fuel our bodies.
With the concept of making healthy eating fun in mind I ventured out to find innovative ways to do just this, without having to till up the ground. Research shows children’s’ minds work differently that adults, and finding ways to introduce a sense of competition, accomplishment, or intrigue into meal planning. A registered nurse by the name of Rebecca Frager published an article through Cafe for Healthy Eating, that delves into the ways of adolescent healthy eating. She presents options to aid in getting your children to eat more fruits and vegetables such as: growing a family garden, adding fruits and vegetables to dishes you already eat (i.e. sandwiches, tacos, etc.) and, serving raw fruit and vegetables or salads before a meal when children are most hungry. The suggestion I found most interesting was her idea to correlate healthy and non healthy eating with visual cues. She presents and idea called “Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light”. By associating foods by these slogans it teaches children the value of food in a way they will understand. By giving children colorful and different ways to look at food, they will be able to choose healthy foods on their own. Green light foods include fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and protein sources. Yellow light foods include white bread, frozen yogurt, canned soups, and some desserts. Lastly, red light foods include packaged foods, foods with high preservatives, and highly processed options with low nutritional value. Allowing children to associate foods with these colorful cues allows them to talk about it in their own language and simply associate healthy and unhealthy foods with a color rather than a parental command.