by Jacquelyn Nause
You want your little ones to make healthy choices, even when you aren’t there to guide them. It can often seem overwhelming with varying food preferences and conflicting dietary advice, but we know that proper nutrition (one of the five pillars of Brillia) helps kids maintain good health and can even help them focus. Lucky for busy parents, healthy eating is a habit that can be nurtured with these fun nutrition activities and games for kids.
Get Kids Involved
This is one time when playing with your food is encouraged! Bust out the cookie cutters and let the kids turn snacks into clever creations. Small fruits like berries—and healthy additions such as nuts and cheerios—make great decorations for ants on a log, woodland animal toasts, and apple slice “donuts.” Stars, hearts, and animal cookie cutters will stoke kids’ creativity, and they’ll be eating handfuls of raisins and cucumber slices in no time.
Another way to make fruits and veggies seem more fun to eat is renaming them—or better yet, let the kids name them! Research by Cornell University has shown that children eat 62 percent more of a vegetable if it has a “fun” name than if referred to by its proper name. From x-ray vision carrots to dinosaur broccoli trees, a veggie by any other name would be as nutritious—and is more likely to get in their tummies!
Involving children in growing and preparing food inspires them to eat more of the healthy stuff, too. Create a small window garden if you lack outdoor space. When taking your kids to the farmers market or grocery store, let them choose fresh and nutritious options that appeal to them. Research shows that kids are more likely to try new foods that they choose themselves, and if they help prepare the meal they are more likely to eat the end result.
Superheroes to the Rescue!
Another fun nutrition game for kids is to involve their favorite superhero or role model. When given the option between French fries or carrot sticks, ask your child which one their favorite hero would choose. Helping your child make the connection between their role models and healthy eating will encourage them to make healthier choices, even when away from home.
Make it Bite-Sized
Children love to eat tiny foods that make them feel big. There’s another added benefit to bite-sized portions that all parents will love: improved behavior. Research has shown that when kids have to bite food with their front teeth, they are rowdier during meal times than if they are offered bite-sized pieces. Offering nutritious food that is already cut up—or teaching older children how to safely chop up their food—can increase their intake as well as improve their behavior. It’s a win-win!
Kids love learning as well as teaching others what they know. Pique their interest in nutritious food by teaching them fun food facts they can share with friends. Try these for starters:
● Apples are made up of 25% water, which is why they float.
● Eggplant is actually classified as a berry, but strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are not.
● Cranberries bounce when they’re ripe.
● Cherries are members of the rose family.
Creating good habits around food choices at home will go a long way toward helping kids make healthy choices when they’re away. Encouraging participation such as growing food or preparing their own lunches and snacks, associating healthy food with their role models and incorporating trivia can increase the likelihood that they will continue making healthy choices. Don’t lose hope initially if progress is slow. Habits take time to build, so remember to celebrate small victories and stay on track!
Jacquelyn Nause is a mother, vegetarian, activist, foodie, and the "Cocktail Consultant" for a publication in Portland, Oregon.