by Amy Boone Thompson, National Personal Training Director
A healthy, balanced diet is incredibly important for children, even though maintaining it is often difficult for parents as kids tend to be picky eaters. Proper nutrition ensures that children are being supplied with the correct nutrients they need to maintain and fuel their bodies and minds. Most children learn about healthy eating from health lessons and the observations of eating habits of those close to them, so try integrating nutrition activities and games at home to give kids a fun and hands-on practice. To give you an idea, here is a “healthy eating” game that I do with my own kids.
My children are pretty good eaters, but with our busy and active lives, we realized that they really weren’t even coming close to getting the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables in their day. We needed a way to prompt a six-year-old and a three-year-old to make deliberate choices of including fruits and vegetables in their meals – both when we prepared the food and when they were making choices on their own.
We introduced a fun family game that we play each night at the dinner table called, It Takes Five! Each child takes turns and reports to the family on all the fruits and vegetables that they chose that day. They count them on their fingers and they tell us the color of the food, what it tasted like and whether or not they enjoyed it. At first, they weren’t even sure which foods fell into this food group, so we had fun talking about all kinds of foods and how they were grown and to which food group they belong. This fun game has also helped them to try new foods with a variety of textures and colors. They don’t always get five fruits and vegetables during the day, so they have even made choices to have fruit rather than another dessert so they could get to five before the day is over!
The IT Takes Five game has helped us to talk about healthy foods, teach our children about their choices, encourage them to broaden their palate, and it serves as a great reminder to mom and dad to make sure we are providing the choices for our children each and every day.
As you can see, these types of games reinforce healthy eating concepts in ways that are entertaining for kids. They get a chance to "show off" their knowledge of healthy foods while playing and having a good time. I encourage you to introduce early nutrition education in your kids’ lives so they can learn the skills they need to make healthy diet choices as adults.