Easy as ABC: Everyday Ways to Teach Your Kids about Food

When my kids were starting the school year, I was always filled with anticipation for them to gain knowledge. But each new school year is about more than academic education (though that’s very important!) It’s also about important life skills that your kids will need when they become independent adults. It can be pretty intimidating to make time to educate yourself and to find engaging ways to teach your children about safe and healthful food practices, but you can bet it will serve your family well.  

The good news is that, with the right resources, it’s easy to find ways to teach food safety to your children. There are 4 golden rules of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill, that you can demonstrate through your daily activities. You can make these basic steps fun and informative, while getting the whole family involved in learning. Mealtimes are also great to teach the combination of healthful food and physical activity that keeps us strong and healthy. It’s All About You, is a great booklet that offers easy, actionable tips for families who want to include healthful food and activity into their daily routines.

Some easy ways to get your kids learning about food safety and nutrition, from one mom to another:

Clean: Before and after meals, have kids check if counters are cleaned and hands and sponges/dish towels washed.  Let them know that we share our environment with lots of organisms, but by keeping what goes into our mouths clean, we can prevent germs from entering our bodies and making us sick.

Separate: Why not get some help from the family the next time you return from the grocery store? See if your kids can guess where each item should be stored. Explain a few specific storage steps, like why raw poultry should be wrapped tightly (hint: to keep the juices from leaking on items that won’t be cooked before eating!)

Putting away groceries together will be a great learning experience about keeping food safe and an excellent way to familiarize your family with the refrigerator inventory. Knowing what went into the fridge can make them aware of the fresh fruits and vegetables available for snacking, in addition to the dry foods that are stored in the cool, dry pantry.

Cook: When cooking dinner, ask your children to help take the temperature of tonight’s hamburger or chicken drumsticks. Help them watch for poultry to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F and hamburgers to 160°F. Kids can even dress up as “Dr. Food Safe” who makes sure the food is ready to eat. This is a great way to get children used to using a meat thermometer while also showcasing some possible protein sources.

Chill: I only found out recently that when my kids brought home half their sandwich uneaten, they had no idea why I threw it out! Bring your kids into what you’re thinking, so they know that without refrigeration most prepared foods are unsafe to eat after 2 hours at room temperature. A great way to demonstrate is by adding an ice pack to their lunch bags and explaining that keeping food cold is a way to keep it safe to eat. After everyone has served themselves at meals, making the effort to put food back into the refrigerator is also great way to teach moderation in portion sizes.

So, as the kids head back to school, why not capture some of that enthusiasm about learning and teach them lessons about food that they’ll use throughout their lives? No matter how many classes they take, remember that you are their best teacher.

 

For more information about healthful eating and food safety, please visit some of these great resources: