Shop. Teach. Learn
Many children are unfamiliar with many foods. This is typical of children of any age, and even of some adults! It would be extremely beneficial to your children if they could experience new and different foods with you, simply while shopping at the grocery store. Here are a few tips to help you examine new foods with your children and turn the experience into learning you can both enjoy:
Budget extra time to go grocery shopping, and take your child with you. At the store, pick out different foods and see if your child can tell you what they are. See if they can tell you if the food comes from a plant or from an animal.
How many times have you heard adults make negative comments about foods around children? (“Broccoli is gross.” “That bread is like cardboard!”) Be open-minded. Don’t force your food preferences on your child.
Allow your child to choose one “new” fruit or vegetable to buy and try at home.
Read and compare food labels with your child so that he or she can learn that not all foods are exactly the same.
Look at many different types of dry beans and nuts. These foods are full of vitamins, minerals and protein; are relatively inexpensive; and provide a great variety for children to explore. Buy one of each type of nut in-the-shell and allow your child to study the differences and the similarities between them. Open the shells and have your child do the same with the nut inside. Make pictures using different colors of dry beans. See if your child can name each type of bean.
Many children are unfamiliar with fish and seafood. They may eat fish at home, but very few can name any fish beyond tuna, fish sticks, and goldfish. Take time at the grocery store to view the fresh fish counter. Borrow a book from the library that shows what the fish look like when they are alive. Talk to your child about where different types of fish are found (salmon can be found in rivers in Washington and Alaska, trout can be found in many lakes and streams throughout the country, Lake Mead has bass, trout and many other fish).
Taking some extra time with your child now will enhance your relationship in many ways. It will help your child understand the pleasurable aspects of food and the variety that is available. It will also help your child have an open mind when considering food choices, and may eventually lead to a strong and healthy lifestyle!
Susan Lednicky is a Nutritionist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email or call Lednicky at 702-257-5548.