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How To Improve Your Child's Food Knowledge?

How To Improve Your Child's Food Knowledge?

Weekly family dinners at nonna’s house always bring up weird and wonderful topics of conversation, especially when there are kids at the table. 

I have recently started getting really into TED talks, and I thought I would bring up one I had watched. 

In February 2010 Jamie Oliver won a Prize for his TED talk for an all-out assault on our ignorance of food. He shared his experience of his anti-obesity project in Huntington, West Virginia. What baffled me most was the footage of young children being unable to identify vegetables when he presented it to them in the classroom. Some couldn’t even identify a potato! 

As I shared this insight at the table, I couldn’t help but notice what my younger cousins were eating compared with the adults at the table. All my younger cousins had plates filled with simple carbohydrates and processed food because they didn’t like what nonna had prepared (which was delicious I might add). 

Healthy food needs to be communicated by the whole family.

Healthy food needs to be communicated by the whole family.

We spoke a little bit about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet during dinner, but the conversation quickly went back to the sport. 

After dinner, I was speaking to one of my cousins who is in primary school. She made it quite clear to me that she doesn’t like any vegetable and doesn’t like meat either. She said that she had tried them but just does not like them. 

I shared with her some of my favourite things I love to do with pumpkin, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots and she looked at me stunned. I might as well have been speaking French.  My niece hadn’t heard of some of the vegetables I was talking about, and she had no idea there were so many ways of preparing the vegetables she did know. 

Speaking to my niece made me wonder about how much children know about the food they are eating. 

What message are sending out with "colourful" children's parties? 

What message are sending out with "colourful" children's parties? 

Even though Jamie’s TED talk was seven years ago the issue is still relevant because children are still unaware of the food they are eating and what it does to their insides. 

I know for sure that my cousins are not the only children that are fussy and selective of the foods they eat. Parents have been dealing with this issue for generations. A standard approach to integrating more vegetables and meat into their children’s diet has been to sneak them into food the child already enjoys…. Kids aren’t silly; they aren’t going to eat something foreign or unfamiliar. If I saw some unknown green thing popping out of my food, I wouldn’t eat it either. 

Now I’m not suggesting we scare children about the possible detrimental effects of a limited diet on their health, but I am suggesting that if children knew more about the nutritional benefits of vegetables and meats that maybe they would choose to eat them. 

I understand that getting a child to eat something they don’t want to eat is challenging for parents and a daunting task for them to undertake without support. What if there was someone else sending the same message to children? 

Oliver said in his TED talk that after two one-hour sessions with the kids at a primary school level, educating them about vegetables and their benefits for our bodies, the children could identify all the plant foods he presented. 

The integration of basic nutritional information into school curriculum could be something of enormous benefit to children. The school could serve as a positive role model for the kids to try more fruits and vegetables.

Jamie Oliver has been a fantastic role model for schools particularly in the UK and America of the importance of educating children about the food they are eating. The schools that have implemented his idea have been role models for their students. 

Labelling in this country is wrong. How can you say something is low fat when it is full of sugar?
— Jamie Oliver

I am going to put my hand up and say that I am going to commit to being an active model in food education for my cousins. I don’t necessarily need to say any anything; I just need to eat right, colourful and nutritious food around them. If they see what I eat looks fun and exciting, they might be enticed to try it. I might even subtly whip out an interesting recipe book of fun snack and dinner ideas integrating a variety of nutrients that might be enticing to them.

Think about the young people in your life and what they are eating.  Is there someone you could be a positive role model with food?  

More video's on childhood obesity.

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Written by Angelica.  Follow Angelica on Instagram here.

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