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A nutrition book for kids. What do you want in it?

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Apr 24, 2010

Were any of you on GreenSmoothieGirl.com early enough to remember this photo of my daughter Emma, then 11 years old?

It used to be the concept the site revolved around. My original intent was to support moms in their quest to feed their families good nutrition even as the world they live in has made that very difficult.

My daughter was the “green smoothie girl” poster child I had in mind. She is now 14 and taller than I am at 5’9″.  Still lovely and healthy and enjoys green smoothies. She plans to try out for the soccer team of the state championship high school this fall.

As traffic on the site (and feedback) grew, I wanted to be more inclusive, as the moms on the site were joined by single people, grandparents, couples without children, and so many others whose health would benefit from a natural, mostly raw and plant-based diet. Others working with me convinced me to put my own photo up.

But I want to get back to the roots and possibly co-author a book with my teen daughter.   Any title ideas? I’m thinking something like this:

20 Reasons Why Kids Who Eat Right Kick Butt

Would you want your tween (age 10-15) to read a book focusing on the motivations compelling to that age group? A separate, illustrated book for the younger kids, may end up on my to-do list.

Obviously I have a lot of ideas of my own, but imagine this book containing the things you want YOUR kids to know. (Or grandkids, or any children in your life.) More and more dieticians/nutritionists are approached by desperate parents, saying, “Please help me teach this to my kid–she won’t listen to me!”

Those of you who have studied child development know that after the latency period of childhood (ending about age 12), the parent is no longer usually the pivotal influence. The peer group is. This, of course, makes me very motivated to reach the young moms who have the most influence, as well as control of the diet. But as kids leave home more often and are eating at school, friends’ homes, and social events, what might motivate them to choose natural, whole, raw plant foods? We can’t give up on nutrition just because a headstrong child has reached 13. Many parents are watching helplessly as their children slide into weight problems in middle school.

So imagine the book as an extension of your own pure motive to help your child eat a healthy diet. What should it cover?

You are always so helpful when you comment on my blog, so thanks so much for any feedback!

Posted in: Books, Parenting

51 thoughts on “A nutrition book for kids. What do you want in it?”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    They need a way to eat without feeling too incredibly weird about the food they take for lunch. My kids have gotten comments for eating green peppers! They need creative/innovative ways to eat healthy but not be labeled as strange or “granola”. Recipes or ideas for things they can make and take, would be great.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I raised 6 children on wholesome food. My kids ate alfalfa sprouts every day after school and I was not there to make them. they loved them and they ate them as a snack. I grew most of all of our food organically and they were involved in the process. They could tell the difference between ours and store bought. They have taught others how to cook and prepare healthy meals. They appreciate not having pimples, menstrual cramps and other teenage problems. My son had his wisdom teeth pulled and was back at school the next day. His friends thought that he did not have it done. Show them the rewards of good food and how to grow it. Store bought, even organic, is not perfect. i can taste the imbalances in nutrition and I starve all winter. Sprouts are the perfect fresh food in the winter since you can do it yourself.

    I have dealt with ADHD and Dr. Jon Wright gave him three supplements and he was calm in 24 hours!! Minerals and B vitamins are mostly the key but some may have heavy metal problems. Feed the brain with good essential fats also.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sounds great to me..I’ll take any help I can get for my 8yr old son. I do not get any support from his father on my nutritional beliefs, so any outside help would be nice.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Love the idea. I don’t know any parent who doesn’t want to teach their kids about the benefits of a healthy diet.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is a very important topic to me, and I’d love any assistance I could get. My four teens don’t care about their future health. At this age they are invincible, so a book about why good health choices brings them benefits NOW would be compelling. I agree that a trendy format and title would be essential, but my kids would not buy the book with the title you suggested.

    My kids get teased a lot about the lunches they bring from school, so lunch ideas that look and are tasty enough that their friends-are-so-jealous-that-they-want-to-trade-lunches-with-them-but-can’t would be awesome.

    Helpful hints on how to politely handle social situations that involve food would be great. (What do you do if somebody hands you a donut? That kind of stuff.) Also, the food pyramid can be a hot topic if not handled properly, and once in awhile my kids will end up stumbling and accidentally end up in You’re wrong/I’m right wars with their friends. To make matters worse, they rarely have a good handle on the whys of good nutrition despite my valiant efforts to teach them, so they make claims to justify their odd eating habits and then have trouble substantiating them if they are different than what the rest of the world has been trained to believe. End result: Blame Mom. “I can’t help it, my mom makes me eat this stuff!”

    My kids love healthy and unhealthy foods. The biggest stumbling blocks for making wise choices are taste (face it–fat, salt and sugar taste good, while healthy food tastes, well, healthy!), a desire to be seen as normal, lack of convenience, and being plagued with a feeling of denial. That’s why we love green smoothies. They address all of these concerns. (Lunches at school are still a challenge. Anybody out there know of a spill-proof way of transporting green smoothies in a backpack?) My coping philosophy with my teens has been to fill them up with healthy food when they are in my presence and try to keep junk food out of the house. When they are full from a healthy meal, they only eat a few Cheetos instead of a whole bag. As a family we also cut loose on special days of celebration. That way they don’t view me as a bad guy who will never let them eat a Snickers bar.

  6. HI Robyn, This subject really gets me going. I’d love to have resources that teach our kids at their level. My kids are 7,9 and 11. They don’t need any baby talk, but long dry details won’t keep their attention either. They care a great deal about many subjects, but they want to get information quickly, or in short spurts. They want to know “why” a specific choice is bad, how bad, and how important it is to be “perfect” at it. They love anything fun and positive, although some scary drama about the nasty long-term effects of eating junk is also within thier scope of interest.

    I love your work, Nutrition and Health are my second love, so you’ll always have a fan here! Keep it up!

    Selah Cambias

  7. Anonymous says:

    That is a wonderful idea Robin, my 13 year old just rolls his eyes when I remember him something about thinking what he is putting in his mouth, so I really need HELP!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I’m a junior undergraduate English major, and I just took an adolescent lit class this semester, so this is pretty relevant to what I’ve been learning. A nutritional advice book for teens sounds like a fantastic idea, especially since I heard the frightening projection that this generation may not outlive their parents due to complications from obesity. Teens are especially targeted with junk food ads and the fast food mentality, so a book aimed at them would be super useful.

    I would recommend doing one of those turn-around books where half the book is aimed at guys and half the book is aimed at girls. This way, everything in each gender section will be relevant. In both sections you can talk about brain food and building muscle because many teens are concerned with those no matter what their gender. But there are also individual issues that you could address in a gender-divided book.

    Most of all, teens crave sincerity and things that are relevant to their lives. A book talking about food choices and why food is important in a language that is teen friendly, using a format engaging to teens would be a huge asset to the adolescent literature field.

    I would change the title to something a little less “textbook/boring magazine article” sounding. Sorry if I’m harsh. Perhaps something like, “You Want Me to Eat What?!” I would also change the book’s aim to hit the 15-18 crowd. Any younger than 15, and kids are usually at the mercy of their parent’s eating habits. After 15, when they’re driving, they have more say in what they eat, and it becomes more critical to convince them that a healthy diet is vital. Also, the older kids of that age group (17 and 18) are going to be going off to college where they will be entirely responsible for their own nutrition. This is a key turning point, and an opportunity to encourage healthy choices at college.

    Keep me posted on this. I would be very interested to see a book like this published.

    Again, that’s been my two cents. I’m considering charging for my ten cents.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Thanks Cora–and everyone else!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am a Youth librarian who loves the idea of promoting health through great books for children. There aren’t many (good) nutricional books for kids. I think it would be a good idea to add “Green Roots” at the beginning of “20 Reasons Why Kids Who Eat Right Kick Butt.” Families always remember the first frase of book titles. Just an idea 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    Yes the title has to be right…. for teens and even pre teens… “20 Reasons Why Kids Who Eat Right Kick Butt” probably loses the reader before the best part…”Kick Butt”

    There is a book in Australia called “If I eat another Carrot I’ll go Crazy” (not about raw foods but a bit of a non establishment look at heart disease reversal. “You want me to eat what?” has the same kind of attention grabbing effect… to me any way…

    Love the ideas about kids actually telling their own positive stories about healthy eating… peers listen to peers…

    DVD or links to utube of kids preparing fave healthy foods would be great too.

  11. Anonymous says:

    From reading through all the comments and ideas, I see a series of kids eating healthy books coming, starting out with toddlers and going up to teens. Eventually adding more books for all the ages in between. Simple, colorful, educational, from growing the food to preparing it with lots of simple recipes that the kids can eventually prepare themselves. I love what Tonja’s son, at age six, is doing. How impressive! I’ve always thought that the youth is what will change society, from environmental issues to health and wellness and beyond. He is making a fantastic impact and he is just one child. If we start out with the youngest children, we can guide them so they do make intelligent decisions as they are exposed to peer pressure later on. Tonja’s son is creating peer pressure in a positive direction. How fantastic! If we could get all of our children creating that positive peer pressure from a young age on, we won’t have to worry about what will happen when they become teenagers because they will be the leaders setting healthy examples and educating those less fortunate.

    I have a one year old granddaughter that I would love to have a book to help teach her about the importance of healthy eating and why it is important to avoid the bad junk. A board book and/or pop up book with animated illustrations would be wonderful. As she passes through each stage, it would be great to have a book that would be age appropriate with new recipes and ideas in each.

    As Vivi says, there are virtually no good nutritional books for children out there and there is a huge need for them. I am looking forward to your books.

    I also think the parents of teenagers definitely need outside help for their teens eating choices and I liked Cora’s two cents worth of ideas on that.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Do you have an email to contact you at?

    Love what you do!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, I think this is a fantastic idea. I am working really hard with my 9 year old on changing our old habits and creating new ones. She voluntarily chose to be Vegetarian after me modeling it for several months and chooses mostly raw, fresh (local) vegan foods as well – HOWEVER – since making these changes she has really gotten a lot of ridicule from her friends at school who actually make fun of her for bringing “green smoothies” in her lunch or being a Vegan (one kid actually told the other kids that being Vegan was like being an alien????) She is given a hard time when she chooses water or brings rice milk to school instead of drinking the juice and whole milk (yes even in the 3rd grade they are still pushing these things) offered. I want to figure out how to make being healthy cool?? How to make her feel special and privileged to be making these choices. I would love a book by kids for kids that really help convince them why they should do this.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is a great idea. Our kids said it would be good to know how to handle being at a party when there aren’t many healthy options, good snacks to make. I think a book or videos where you or young adults talk directly to the kids would be good. I also agree with others about helping the kids see that it is cool and that they’ll be glad they are making these choices. Maybe what to do when they don’t like something at first.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I’d also like to see information on what specific nutritional needs kids have as opposed to adults. Some of our kids have been experiencing hair loss (our 14 and 13 year old girls, and I’m not sure about my youngest girl, 8, and boy, 11), and I’m not sure if it is getting better or not. We’ve added beets to their green smoothies for iron, and flax oil for probably about two weeks. I’m not sure when we should expect to see a difference.

    When my husband talked to his doctor, the doctor was concerned that our kids might not be getting enough complete proteins or nutrients. He mentioned that a concern is that without the proper nutrients there could be liver damage, and this wouldn’t show up in the blood work until there is significant, irreversible damage. We eat peanut butter and whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, lots of lentils, beans and some tofu. So I’d really like to know how to solve our health problems (hair loss being a symptom of being nutrient deficient, I assume), and some specific advice of portions sizes and nutritional needs. It would be nice to be able to know what a vegan nutritionist would say to balance out what the mainstream doctors say. Do I need to be worried about liver damage?


    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      From the diet you describe, you may be eating better than most Americans, except you didn’t describe what I recommend eating MOST of: greens, vegetables, and fruits (in that order). THEN the legumes, whole grains, etc. that you list as parts of your diet.

      Liver damage from what? I would worry about liver damage from the toxic Standard American Diet. Stay out of the drive-thru and out of the middle of the grocery store.

      Two children are losing hair? I would ask if there’s an environmental factor–some kind of chemical exposure? Are they drinking tap water? What’s in your municipal water?

      Regular green smoothies will provide minerals to hopefully address hair loss issues, but if you’re eating refined sugar, it will slow mineral absorption significantly.

  16. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

    Please contact me through the site, Julie, at support123@greensmoothiegirl.com, and anyone else who mentions your child who would participate giving me a “testimonial” about what happens to your health/well being etc., when you eat right.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Robyn – Very late to this thread, so don’t know if you’ll see this. But I’ve been doing something at work to make the green smoothies look amazing to people, and I think it might work for kids, too. At work I use an easy to carry around Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Belnder/Processor. Actually, I make all my smoothies with it – at home, too. Cost 30 bucks at Costco and pulverises veggies as well as a giant expensive blender. Since I don’t have kids, and my husband has no interest in GS (sadly) something that small works fine for me. Anyway, mix all your reds first (red cabbage, radishes, carrots, blueberries are what I use) and pour that in the glass – make enough to fill it half way. Then do your greens (usually romaine or spinach with a little banana) and pour that in slowly. It makes an awesome two-toned smoothie of beautiful, vibrant colors – the colors aren’t mixed and don’t muddy each other up to an icky brown. And each one comes out different. It reminds me of the old Big Stick frozen popsicles that had side by side colors – fun and pretty to look at.

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