Teaching Children to Make Wise Food Choices

Although they are born with a unique tasting apparatus, their tongue, as they grow up babies learn about food selection by imitating the family around them. Children will model after what they witness at events that highlight food.

In these days of multi-tasking, and fast food, it may be forgotten that children will learn a lot about making wise food choices, if they are allowed to participate in it’s purchase, and preparation.

Opportunities:

Are children included in shopping for meals cooked at home?

Is the appearance of the food served to children considered?

Is the texture, and taste, of the food child friendly?

Are the majority of family meals prepared at home?

Are children occasionally included in food preparation?

Of course, children are not born knowing anything about foods first served to them. They do have a unique genetic toolbox to help them choose the taste of things they prefer. They are called taste buds, and help them identify the intensity of the many flavors eaten.

One way to teach children to make wise food choices is to share with them a little bit about the events that bring food into their lives. That might well begin with a trip to the market.  At the market you can stop at various bins in the produce department, pick up selections along the way, hold them up to a very young child, and say the name of it a few times, or mention the color. Then make it clear you are taking certain ones home to eat, and hand it to them to place in the cart.

As the child gets older, they can participate even more. Show the child how you make a shopping list, and put them in charge of helping you pick out apples, or celery, yams, or some other delicious vegetable. As they get older, you can help them understand that each food has certain outstanding qualities that keep everyone healthy. The older the child, the more they will understand that certain food, like green leafy vegetables will keep them from missing a play rehearsal, or soccer practice, because they don’t succumb to the cold going around their school. Although every child will not form the same opinion about a certain food, role model preference is an important confirmation.

Perhaps there is no most important aspect of helping children to assess the value of good food, it is rather a constellation of happenings, communication, participation, and affirmative social interactions around mealtime that help children learn to choose food wisely.

All of these things help children create a positive relationship with food, which certainly helps them know that good food, and good health go together.