Teaching children about nutritious food and where it comes from can be incredibly challenging. The goal is to make it fun. Thankfully, there are now a wide variety of resources to help share the story of how our food gets to us and how to make healthy choices.
In Chris Butterworth’s “How Did That Get in my Lunchbox?” children are taken on a fun journey of how the foods in a well-balanced lunchbox get there. While mom and dad probably bought most of the ingredients at the market, food doesn’t grow in stores, so its a good idea to know where it really came from. From the process of making bread and cheese to growing fruits and vegetables, this books makes the process fun. The book ends with an explanation of the different food groups and a statement that most of your plate should come from fruits and vegetables. A big hit with kids!
Another fun book that shows how foods make it from the farm to our tables is “Chef Foody’s Field Trip,” by Agostino Traini, originally published in Italian but now available in English. In this beautifully illustrated book, children are shown how a wide variety of fields are grown, harvested, and turned into the foods that we know and love. In addition to showing the full farming method, this ingenious book also explains how foods are processed into things like flour, pasta, jams, yogurt and many other items. There are also sections on how we get meat and seafood and how they are processed into individual cuts. A colorful way to learn about where our food actually comes from.
In Robie Harris’s “What’s so Yummy?” the focus in all about eating well and how that helps keep you healthy. This book is more of a story following two young children and their family as they visit the local co-op farm and markets. It focuses on the wealth of foods that we should be eating and acknowledges vegetarian diets as well as food allergies. Kids not only learn about good foods and the value of drinking water, but also are shown how people sometimes get tired or cranky when they are hungry. The book ends by encouraging families to eat well and to get outside and move in order to stay healthy and happy.
A final book that does an awesome job of pushing home what a diet of too much junk food can do to you is “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food.” When Mama Bear notices all of the junk that her family keeps snacking on, she decides that it is time to get rid the bad choices in their house. A fortuitous run-in with the family physician while at the market buying wholesome foods also brings the whole family to doctor’s office for a lesson on how our bodies work and the pitfalls of junk food. Mama does a great job of moving her family away from the sugar balls and coco-chums and towards healthier, nutrient filled snacks that keep them going as they also get out and exercise more. For younger kids that respond better to fiction, this is a perfect way to start teaching them about nutrition.
No matter how you do it, helping kids learn about where our food comes from and what helps make their bodies work the best is something to start earlier rather than later. Then after reading, get out and move!