While going to the grocery store with the kids can sometimes mean that magical bag of cookies mysteriously lands in your shopping cart, grocery shopping is actually a great learning tool for children. It provides the opportunity to teach budgeting skills as well as how to make healthy food choices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years and placed children at risk for cardiovascular disease. Learning the importance of making healthy choices while staying within a budget is essential to change those numbers.
A lesson in food costs
Create a list for each child of 20 different food items. Make sure to include a variety such as fresh produce, meats, dairy and even junk foods. Make a trip to the grocery store with the sole purpose of pricing. Let each child take their list and write down the prices of each item. When you get home, discuss the numbers and the quantity of each item. This will teach children about food costs as well as how to stay within a budget.
Change your meal planning
Include your children in the weekly menu planning. KidsHealth suggests that involving children in meal planning helps to encourage smart eating habits. Set aside time each week where you sit down with your children and look through a variety of cookbooks or online recipe sites. Let children choose recipes that appeal to them and they think they may enjoy. Talk to them about the importance of a balanced meal and let them plan a menu that fulfills that.
Where does it come from?
Take your children on a trip to the grocery store produce section or a local farmer’s market. See how many fruits and vegetables they can identify. For some, this may be a difficult task because the produce is in its natural state. This is not what it may look like when it reaches their plate. For example, many children do not know that peas come out of a pod. For a more in-depth lesson on where food comes from, look for a local u-pick farm and let the children go out and pick their own fruits and vegetables. Many farms across the country are even opening up to children for summer camps and lessons in food sources. Another good option is to consider growing your own garden and letting the children pick which vegetables they want to grow. Kids are more likely to try something they have grown.
Once the children have determined their menu and gathered all the ingredients, include them in the food preparation. Even young children can help by washing fruits and vegetables. Just like an art project, children will have pride in the fact they have created something and will be more tempted to try new foods.
Teaching the importance of healthy choices and food costs is a lesson that children will take with them. Including them in the choices and preparation will encourage them to make their own choices in when they are out with friends, at school, and when they move out on their own. These small little steps can help to reduce childhood obesity in the end.