Teach children at home
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.
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My son who is 4 does help with a knife. We purchased a salad knife from Bed Bath and Beyond and it is plastic so much more safe than a regular knife. He loves this part and will happily eat whatever we are chopping at the time…more so than at dinner with a fork. He loves chopping things and you see him sneaking bites all the time – which I encourage. I mean what kid wouldn’t love to hold something that they are always preached at isn’t safe to touch like a knife…just get a safe one that they can’t cut themselves on.
Thanks for this great article! My children love helping me make salads, from picking out the produce at the store to making the salads themselves. Same thing with the Green Smoothies — they love seeing what goes in and enjoying their individual creations.
You need to publish books asap!!
Hi Green Smoothie Girl,
You are very refreshing and bring everything down to a simple level; thank you. I am encouraged by you. Are you an advocate of raw cacao; raw gogi berries; are do you think they are overrated? I am moving toward raw and probably am around 55% at present.
I took my first child to the store to explore. We found vegetables there that we had not tasted. (We didn’t even know how to cook them.) I let him pick out a vegetable that he wanted to try. He chose artichokes. We then talked to the store’s home economist and looked at cookbooks to decide how to prepare them. It was all very fun. To this day my little explorer loves artichokes – and he is 30 with six children of his own!
I love broccoli, and wanted my children to like it too. After we watched the movie “The Land Before Time” in which a dinosaur calls a leaf a “tree star”, I told my children that broccoli was “tree stars” and we have called it that ever since. My six children and ten grandchildren love “tree stars” best of all the vegetables!