Talk About It

I’m a big supporter of giving kids the information they need to make good decisions. It’s one thing to just tell your kids what to eat, but teaching them why certain foods are better than others will serve them well in the long run.
When we play Raise Your Rainbow®, we naturally talk about food…why we’re eating certain foods, what the health benefits are, etc. Raise Your Rainbow® is a great conversation starter because it’s not forced, you just start sharing information and these conversations happen more often.
I’ve also learned over time that how you present the facts is sometimes just as important as the facts themselves. So try to make the information interesting and be creative. Below are some examples of conversations that go beyond the usual “why eating fruits and vegetables is good for you” that are guaranteed to capture your child’s attention:
  • Live and Dead foods: Talk about the difference between “live” foods and “dead” foods. Explain that live foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds), grow using energy from the sun, nutrients from the soil, air, water, etc.  Your children may even be learning about photosynthesis in school so they can apply it to this conversation. Explain how this natural energy and its corresponding benefits (including health-promoting phytonutrients = nutrients found only in plants) are transferred to their body when they eat it. Now explain how “dead” foods are made in factories and have man-made, imitation flavors and colors added to make it seem “natural” and alive. Dead foods usually take away from your health whereas live foods add to your health.  Continue on from here and they will make some insightful connections and will LOVE calling processed foods “dead” – how fun is that!
  • Flavorings from a Factory: When we were driving through New Jersey one summer we drove by a row of huge factories and it made me think of an article I had read about a giant manufacturing company in New Jersey that makes just the flavorings and fragrances for almost every household and food product on the market. So we started talking about this and how the flavor of cheese crackers comes from an artificial mix of chemicals made inside this factory and is not real cheese and that the strawberry taste of a lollypop or sports drink is probably from the same factory as the strawberry scented air freshener. So, be still my heart when my daughter saw a colorful fruit loop type of cereal at a breakfast buffet a few weeks later and said “Mom, I bet those flavors came from that factory in New Jersey!”  Yay – success!
  • Conduct an Experiment. Explaining how an apple is going to last longer in their tummy over crackers is more effective if you show them. Here’s a fun, simple experiment that your kids will remember for a long time. Pour water into 2 glasses and explain that these represent two stomachs.  Then put crackers in one and apple pieces (or any fruit or vegetable) in the other. Stir both glasses and watch how quickly the crackers dissolve. Even let it sit for a while and come back to it. Explain that's how fast processed foods dissolve in their stomach and fruits and vegetables take longer to digest because of all the fiber so it keeps you feeling full / satisfied longer.
So you get the idea – think outside of the box and be extreme in your examples so kids will be engaged and remember the information. Watch their self-esteem grow when they apply their knowledge to everyday situations, especially ones that will benefit their health. In the end, these conversations will help them make informed decisions, become savvy consumers, and shape their preferences for the natural goodness of fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods.