“Mom, what are we having for dinner tonight?” Kevin ran his hand across the lamb’s back, rubbing its wooly coat. The petting zoo had been our choice of activity that cool September day, and I was about to get a first hand experience about connecting kids to the food on their plate.
“Um… lamb.” The words were out of my mouth before I realized what I had just said. Kevin’s hand stopped on the lamb’s back and his eyes widened. He looked at the lamb, then at me, back to the lamb. I then did what any mom would do in that situation.
I bleated. He was horrified.
Fortunately, my son loves his food far more than he is squeamish, and that night he downed his lamb pasta sauce, smacking his lips and commenting on the “tasty, tasty little lamb” that he was eating. He’s always been the kind of kid who wants to know where his food comes from, and we’ve been happy to show him. I believe that giving kids this kind of knowledge helps them make healthier food choices. Who wouldn’t rather eat something with ingredients they can recognize over something full of chemicals? How do you connect kids with what’s on their plate, anyway? Well, the trick my friends, is to start when the kids are young.
Go on a safari right in the produce department, or visit a farm!
Your local grocery store or farmers market is just chock full of all kinds of tasty produce, why not introduce the kids to it? Take the kids on a safari in the produce section-go just to look at all the fruits and vegetables, talk about them, where they come from, and allow each child to pick out one thing to take home and try. Serve it up for snack! You may be surprised by what they pick. If you can, visit a local farm and see how things are grown. Farms aren’t just for vegetables-we’ve traveled to honey, oyster, pistachio, and apple farms! Most farmers will happily give you a tour, and to say thanks, make sure to buy some of their products to take home and sample.
Read, Read, Read
There are all kinds of wonderful picture books about produce and where food comes from, from Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed to Lars Klinting’s Beaver the Gardner. I also love Eating the Alphabet, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and for your picky eater I Will Never, Not Ever, Eat a Tomato. Serve them up with a healthy snack and make story time a picnic!
Grow It Yourself
In the early spring, you can start a container garden and try growing some simple veggies like peas, bush beans, radishes, and green onions, or even strawberries. Kids will love watching them grow, picking, and later eating them-even if they choose not to eat them, lesson learned! Container gardening is really very easy, even a novice can get a pot of veggies going on a back porch.
Serve the Veggies Naked
No need to dress up vegetables and fruit with sugary and fatty dips, just let the kids start with them right how they are meant to be enjoyed. They will discover dips soon enough, and when they do you can keep them relatively healthy by sticking to Greek yogurt but until then, introduce those new little tastebuds to veggies in their purest form! You may be surprised that once you are used to naked veggies how delicious they taste without all the added stuff on them.
Kids learn from watching you, and if you shy away from fruit and veggies or think that they are the very last thing you want to be eating, so will they! Find some that you don’t mind eating and share them with the kids. You don’t have to love them all (hey, I can’t stand cantaloupe) but making the effort counts. You never know, by introducing your kids to where their food comes from, you may find som