Make healthy eating engaging for your family

Preschool years are the perfect time to start your children down a path of healthy and nutritious living.

Preschool years are filled with moments of open and curious learning time both for children and parents. Exploration drives most of the facts and information little ones are soaking up, so why not make food, nutrition and physical activity part of their interest? Building healthy eating habits with your children while also considering how to stretch your dollars is important.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following tips

Include choice

When possible, include choice so children can explore their interests and follow their senses. One way to accomplish this is by setting up stations with various activities and tastings that families can peruse together.

Make it colorful

Eating a rainbow of different food is appealing to children and draws their attention. They see green smoothies as neat and remind us as adults to do the same. Wondering at the variety of carrot, peppers and tomato colors feeds naturally into learning about foods and trying new things.

Make it fun

Stickers, markers and even a blender powered by a bike. Whatever can help make their experiences memorable will last long into their school years. Recently, I had a 5-year-old tell me about the whistle he won a year ago for tasting 5 vegetables at a health fair.

Make it and taste it

With proper supervision, allow children to slice, plate and interact with ingredients as opposed to having it all done for them. One example, of this is making trail mix in a lidded cup. Very young children can scoop cereals, sprinkle cinnamon and shake to make their own snack.

Keep budget in mind

Healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Keep an eye out for sales, cheaper store brands and use ingredients in multiple ways like wraps and smoothies can show children how to make food dollars stretch. Enjoy seasonal food, as well as fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables to get the most value. MyPlate.org and Cooking Matters have great resources for digging deeper.

Whether it’s a health fair, community event or school effort promoting healthy eating and physical activity, engaging and fun activities can launch children and their families into habits that last a lifetime.

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