Teach children at home, in age-appropriate ways, about nutrition, since that’s where most food prep and eating takes place anyway.I once taught my children about the three parts of a grain–the bran (fiber), the germ (vitamins), and the endosperm (the glue).I’ve told them that white bread throws away the two good parts and keeps only the one useless part–the “glue” of the grain.Months later, I happened upon a conversation between my daughter and one of her friends, where she was explaining to her friend, waving a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, that the bread her friend eats every day is made of exactly that substance.Obviously she’d taken what I said far too literally.Consider it a challenge to explain nutrition principles you read about in terms a child can understand.
My belief is that parents willing to “walk the talk” and fill their own plates up with good things are teaching in the most powerful way possible: by example.But also, as the parents, we believe that we are in charge.Salad is not an option, and it’s not a “side dish,” something in a corner taking up a square inch or two.I started feeding my kids green salad when they were old enough to chew.We did have to put it on the fork for them and help them with it, the first few years.In our family, we eat salad first (to provide enzymes for any cooked food that will follow), and if you want the rest of the meal at our house, you are required to eat a big helping of salad.
All four of our kids love and crave raw, green salads.So much for the idea we’ve heard often that if we “make” them do it, they’ll hate it and “rebel.”(My mom “made” me eat salad every night, too, and my siblings and I all love salad.)People simply do not rebel against everything they’re taught, and so a sound strategy is to teach true principles and set sound expectations regardless of any random guess about choices children might make in 20 years in reaction to those principles and expectations.On the other hand, kids who rarely or never eat vegetables aren’t likely to make the switch to eating nutritious food in adulthood.
Our kids don’t give us a hard time about eating salad, because (a) the rule is well understood, (2) they know exactly why I provide them raw green food every night, and (c) they have learned, from listening to their bodies, that they prefer how they feel when eating lots of green roughage.
Further, no one person burns out on making salads, because we take turns doing it.Even our 10-year old knows how to wash and chop greens and other vegetables, getting a large salad together in 10 or 15 minutes.Only my 7-year old doesn’t help with that, because he’s not old enough to handle a knife yet (he can set the table and do other tasks, though).Not only does this free my time so I don’t burn out on being a slave to the kitchen, but it also gives my children a chance to contribute to the meal they will eat.As you teach children at home, they’ll have a sense of accomplishment for having done a job well, and an opportunity to learn healthy habits for life.