Helping Hands: Exploring healthy food makes it fun for kids
It’s never too early to start teaching children about healthy eating habits, and a new program is working toward reducing childhood obesity and making healthy food fun. The Family & Intercultural Resource Center is working with Lake Dillon Preschool to create the Exploring Food Together program, which gives children hands-on experience in discussing and making their snacks through weekly sessions.”I’m always impressed by the awareness these preschoolers have of different kinds of fruits, vegetables and preparation methods,” said Bethany Hughes, FIRC’s Exploring Food Together instructor. “The children love to share stories about helping mom or dad shop and how to make their favorite recipes.”Each child participates in making their own snack. For example, each chooses the fruits or veggies they want to use for their own “veggie super hero” or “fruit face.” By being involved in the process, the children have a greater sense of ownership and are more likely to eat the snack. The program is meant to be a fun and engaging method of bringing healthy eating to the forefront of kids’ minds, and build on the healthy aspects already in their diet by introducing new foods and preparation methods. By having a hands-on snack, and time with participants on a regular basis, program coordinators say it will create a fundamental understanding of food groups and where they come from, thereby empowering the children to start making healthy food choices early on.”We are very happy to be working with FIRC and introducing the Exploring Food Together program to our preschool class,” said Cheri Johnson, interim director of Lake Dillon Preschool. “Proper nutrition is very important at an early age, and this program offers a great start to healthy eating habits.”
Once a week during the six-week course, Hughes spends 15 minutes with groups of five children at a time and talks about the snack brought in that day. Kids handle the food in its original form and learn about the varieties offered in the grocery store. Building on their pre-kindergarten knowledge, they use their senses and new command of colors and shapes to describe the fruit. Then Hughes cuts up the fruit and discusses kitchen safety. “The children are always excited when Bethany comes to our classroom,” said Lauren MacLay, a teacher at Lake Dillon Preschool. “They love discussing different healthy foods as well as learning how to handle the food properly and then eating the wide variety of snacks that are provided for them.”Proper nutrition is essential to children’s brain function and health. According to the National Institutes of Health, children who don’t get enough to eat are “significantly more likely to have poorer health status and to experience more frequent stomachaches and headaches than food-sufficient children.””Teaching children about proper nutrition and making healthier food choices can help them to feel and grow better; therefore helping them become better learners,” said MacLay.
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