Gardening and healthy nutrition is interwoven

Gardening presents an opportunity to encourage youth to improve their diet in a fun way while increasing their physical activity.

Once plants have been raised and harvested from your garden, the exciting topic of nutrition can be introduced to children. Many times youth are unaware that what they see offered at meal time was once a growing, living organism. Having children participate in the growing of their food helps to broaden their interest in eating new foods which can help to improve their health. Increasing physical activity and the consumption of fruits and vegetables has been linked with reduced obesity rates by the Michigan Community Health

Consider growing vegetables that your family does not usually eat, enjoy researching new and interesting recipes while learning about the food’s nutrient benefits.

Produce raised from a garden presents a terrific opportunity to talk as a family about the basics of nutrition. What type of vitamins and nutrients does your body require? How does your digestive system use chemistry to help fuel your body and provide energy for you to grow and function? How can you plan your meals to be sure that you have the correct amount of nutrients? Why are vegetables different colors? How does the color relate to their nutrition? Are there certain foods that are better for your body? How do you decide what to eat?

Gardening provides families with a low cost fun activity to spend time together while enjoying being outdoors. There are numerous physical benefits that include toning and strengthening your body through gardening as well as emotional benefits of doing this tranquil activity.

As summer nears, many families are planting flower or vegetable gardens in their backyards. Gardening presents a wealth of opportunities for youth to apply the science and math knowledge they have gained during their school year. The benefits of gardening are numerous regardless of how big or small efforts may be. See, “Gardening helps youth apply science and math concepts in fun ways,” to read further discussion.

For more information on how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your children’s diet explore the 4-H Jump in Foods and Fitness (JIFF) program by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension

To learn about 4-H Youth Development contact your local MSU Extension office or visit the Gardening in Michigan website to find answers to gardening questions.