Last week PBS KIDS announced a partnership with Whole Foods Market and their Fantastic Organic campaign with a new website that features recipes and tips for simple and healthy organic meals and snacks, shopping tips, videos, and interactive activities for kids that will help parents encourage healthy eating. Participating Whole Foods Market stores will also host “The Hunt for Organics” in-store scavenger hunt that engages kids with an activity sheet to search with their parents for different organic fruits and vegetables. Children can then redeem the completed activity sheet for an Organic Valley prize pack that includes a lunch bag and coupon for Organic Valley products. All participants can enter for the grand prize drawing of a one-year supply of Organic Valley products.
I don't necessarily promote all-organic eating but I've seen the benefits of shopping at stores like Whole Foods other than to find better-looking produce. Browsing the center aisles for processed foods, I've found a greater selection of products like sauces, crackers, and cereals that are lower in sodium and sugar than what can be found in traditional supermarkets. Whole Foods also carries a much larger variety of soy foods that are often cheaper than in conventional stores. The Fantastic Organic site provides info on eating organic and easy recipes. I love the Apricot Graham Snackers (you can't go wrong with anything that uses neufchâtel cream cheese!). The site links to the PBS Parents Eat Smart page that offers helpful articles like "Win Over Picky Eaters" and "Raising Vegetarian Kids." I especially love the tips from Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy Food, some of which are listed below:
Get them involved. If you involve kids in planning meals, going grocery shopping, and preparing food, they will become invested in the process and more likely to eat. Even toddlers too young to make grocery lists can help you make choices (pears or nectarines? cheddar or swiss?) along the way.
Go to the source. Teach kids where their food comes from. Rather than limiting yourself to the weekly supermarket run, take your family to a local farmer’s market (or to the farm itself) and meet the people who grow the food. Picking berries from a vine can help nurture a lifelong love of good eating and environmental stewardship. Visiting a dairy farm can teach children where their milk comes from (and why we should care about what goes in it). Planting tomatoes and melons in the garden may tempt them to try the fruits of their labor.
Make healthy snacks available. If you stock the kitchen exclusively with healthy treats, children will eat them. As your children grow, stock good snacks in cabinets and shelves that they can reach without your help.
Give them freedom of choice. Like the rest of us, kids want to have it their way. But no parent wants to be a short order cook, making four different meals for four different family members. Instead try the fixings bar approach. Offer a suitable base meal, like rice and beans, whole wheat tortillas or lean ground taco meat. Then let kids (and adults) dress it up with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cheese, salsa, jicama, parsley, peppers and other toppings. You might also try a pasta bar with a variety of healthy sauces. This approach works especially well when you’re serving young guests whose food preferences you may have trouble predicting.
Be a role model. A recent study found that young children’s food tastes are significantly related to foods that their mothers liked and disliked. Letting your kids see you order a fresh salad rather than a burger and fries at the drive-through may encourage them to do the same.
Don’t give up. Studies show that most children need multiple exposures (between 5 and 10) to try new foods. This isn’t to say that showing your kids the same papaya or avocado five nights in a row will win them over, but rather to suggest that you shouldn’t give up the first time they reject something.