Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Produce & Your Child

  I think as moms, most of us are looking for ways to encourage our children to eat and like their vegetables.  Did you know that babies develop taste buds in the womb and when they are born they have already tasted the foods that mom ate while she was pregnant?  And then if baby is breastfed, the he continues to taste the foods that mom eats?  Then our infants and toddlers watch us eat and want to eat what we are eating.  When I learned this I was just in awe of God and how He created us to fit into our family culture and to like the foods that will be available.

 But what if your kids are older?  Preschool or later, and they have already developed an opinion on what foods they like and dislike?  How can we continue to teach them about fruits and vegetables and encourage them to keep (or start) eating produce for the rest of their lives?

Vegetable stand by comprock on Flickr
One idea is the grocery store. The place we go to purchase our food can also be a great educational tool if we know how to use it. Yes, the grocery store features many different areas where education can come into play. Take for instance the produce section, within this area lies a wealth of information and learning opportunities for your child. 
What can they learn in the produce aisle you may ask? Well, they can learn a lot of things about the world from the produce aisle. They can learn new fruits and vegetables.  Often produce that is grown local and also imported from far away.  They can pick a new fruit or vegetable to try.  They can ask questions such as “Where do Kiwi come from?” and “What is Baby Bok Choi?”  What do these foods taste like and how to we prepare them? Can they be made into drinks, can they be eaten raw and how do you know when it’s ready to eat? What does it taste like? All of those and more can be answered with a visit to your local grocery store.
At Central Market in Shoreline, WA
Sometimes, we can also get our produce from the farmer's market or a CSA (community sponsored agriculture).   These give children an opportunity to meet farmers that grown their food.  They can learn about the seasons and which foods are fresh in each season.  Some CSAs offer tours and children can actually explore the food they eat on the farm.  Or, even better you can grow your own food at home.  The fresher the produce, the more vitamins and minerals it retains.  Which is one of the big health reasons to eat fruits and vegetables.
But learning about where a food comes from is a great way not only to learn about new foods, but to learn about new cultures and a little geography as well. This can also lead to the history of the produce in question and how it was discovered and how people originally ate it and prepared it for meals. This is just good to learn about anyway regardless of the food itself. 
What about learning how to tell if a certain fruit is ready to eat or not or how to know when it’s ripe? This is very important and you would be surprised to learn how many people just don’t know when something is ripe enough to eat. You can teach your child how to tell when a banana is ripe or how to tell when a melon is ready to enjoy by knocking on it. Each fruit is a little different and learning about them is useful information to have. 

On the farm

You can also teach about organic foods at the grocery store or the farm.  Teach about pesticidesAnd cleaning produce to remove as much as possible before eating it.  Depending on their age you might be able to teach about "the clean 15" and the "dirty dozen".  You can get the lists here.
Once your child knows how to pick certain pieces of produce, let them pick it for you. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and fulfills the need we all have to be useful. Don’t stop there; the next step is having them learn how it tastes and how to prepare it for a meal or by itself as a snack instead of cookies and chips. 

Your best bet is to start with flavors they are already used to such as oranges, apples, grapes and bananas. Teach them how to pick each and prepare them. Have them add bananas to cereal and help them cut apples into wedges for snacks. Break out an apple pie recipe and have them help you make one with fresh apples they helped you pick in the produce section. 
Don’t forget the vegetables.  Corn on the cob is a great vegetable to teach with because it’s interactive and kids can peel away the husk to see what’s inside. If you have a toddler, the produce section is also a great place to teach them about colors and quiz them on identifying various colors. 
Studies have shown a short list of things that influence school age children to eat more produce: if they get to pick it at the grocery store, prepare/cook it at home, grow it in a garden, and see their peers eat.  So grow what you can.  Visit a farm and farmers market.  Learn about how far some foods travel to be at our grocery stores. Get your kids cooking in the kitchen.  Eat your veggies and hopefully your big kids will be good role models for the little ones.  

1 comment:

  1. Good info! Thanks for sharing this with the Thrive @ Home community.