The earlier we teach our children about nutrition, and positive mindset and behaviours, the better. I believe we can not go wrong with raising children who have a love of food. This sets them up with a positive attitude towards eating and their bodies now and later in life.
I love teaching my 2 and 4-year-olds about nutrition. I absolutely love how my oldest son from the age of 3 could verbalise how he was feeling when it came to his appetite.
He was able to differentiate between when he was hungry and when he was comfortably full. He was able to tell me what he felt like eating and if his stomach or mouth was hungry. When he asked for food, he said, “Can I please have a chocolate biscuit for my mouth (dairy free of course because of his allergy to cow’s milk protein….just thought I’d throw that in case you have been following my journey)”. It’s amazing how much awareness and insight kids have!
I believe the foundations of life begin with parents/caregivers. If you can incorporate the fun into learning about food and nutrition, you’ve won half the battle. The following activities will inspire you to prioritise fun around food and eating in setting your child(ren) up for lifelong positive intuitive eating and body image practises:
My 8 Tips For Teaching Kids About Nutrition:
1. Grocery Shopping
Include them in the grocery shop (I know it can get quite chaotic!! I recommend choosing a time when the supermarket is not too busy and when your children are not tired or hungry).
Grocery shopping is a great way to talk about the types of food that are available, which food group the food belongs to, where the food comes from (E.g. milk comes from cows. Farmers/machines milk cows. Milk is bottled in a factory and delivered to supermarkets. Carrots grow from seeds in gardens/ground), main nutrients and why the food is important for the body.
2. Food Preparation & Cooking
Include them in the food preparation and cooking process. It’s a great way for the child to experience different tastes and textures.
3. Bake something tasty
When you bake you are teaching maths (volumes, weight), food science (leavening, the role of each ingredient in the recipe, Maillard browning, texture, solid, liquid and gas), art (creativity and design) and a love for food and cooking too!
Go to the library or bookstore and read books that are related to food and nutrition. Check out Elephant’s Dilemma of Difference for a book that celebrates individuality, body positivity, self-esteem and intuitive eating.
5. Talk about food
Choose a food and talk about:
- What the food is called and what it is (I.e. Bread/cereal, vegetable, fruit, meat, dairy or ‘sometimes’ food).
- The major nutrients in the food and why the nutrients are important for the body
- The colours and textures
- How heavy it is
- The best way to eat it
- How to prepare or cook it.
6. Talk about why we eat
Talk about how we need to eat a variety of food each day to help us be healthy, happy and grow.
7. Talk about how your child eats
- Does your child use their hands, cutlery or chopsticks?
- How does your child know when they are hungry?
- How does your child know they are comfortably full?
- What does your child enjoy eating?
- Does your child choose foods their body feels like?
Tip: When your child asks for food, ask them how hungry they are and if their stomach/belly (true hunger) is hungry or if their eye (seen something nice and wants it) or mouth (feels like something nice to eat) is hungry. This will help you and your child see if they are truly hungry.
8. Start a small veggie patch
Plant fruit, veggies and herbs in pots as an easy and convenient way to grow your own food.
What nutrition lessons do your children love learning or talking about?