Most had very good understanding of which foods go in each food group and could easily identify healthy foods verses treats.
Calcium, vitamin C, fibre, nutrients were all correctly identified]. It was great!
But, when I asked why our bodies needed certain foods or nutrients there was only one answer: "because it's healthy".
So I tried delving deeper by asking "What does healthy mean?" and they struggled to answer.
This is quite common. We teach our kids what foods are healthy, we teach them that we want them to be healthy and they understand that being healthy is a good thing. But we forget to tell them why! What's in it for them. Why should they be healthy? Why eat veggies? The result is the word healthy is just academic, has no real meaning to kids and becomes quite useless in getting our kids to eat.
We need to give the word 'healthy' some meaning. Using the word healthy is not enough, we need to sell, to market healthy foods to kids just like the marketers of unhealthy foods do so very, VERY well.
So, don't tell them it's healthy! Motivate them with what's in it for them (not for you). The words healthy and nutritious are jargon for most kids. Meaningless. Kids don't care that eating vegetables will lower their risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity.
So how do you do this? How do we market (healthy) foods to kids without telling them it's healthy?
First, we need stronger motivation than "healthy". In fact I think simply lose the H word. Link what your child likes doing or wants to improve at directly to the food you want them to eat.
- Green veggies will help you run faster
- Orange veggies will help you do better on tomorrow's spelling test
- Let's have eggs for breakfast because you have that big soccer game today
- I made fish for dinner and will give you extra colours in your lunchbox because you have that big maths test
- Eat some red foods and then show me how high you can now jump
Appropriate marketing and motivation is not just important for kids. All of the above is true for adults too. What motivates you when choosing foods? Looking good? Having lots of energy? For me it's being a good role model for my family. So take some time to think of what drives you. And how to market healthy foods to your kids.
Instead of nagging, use marketing. Instead of pleading, motivate them! Nagging and pleading may work in the short term but it's exhausting and frustrating. Market healthy food (but shhh...don't tell them it's healthy) to your kids. It will make meal times more pleasant and you will be raising healthy eaters who understand the value of a (healthy) diet.
Stay tuned for next week's blog: how to add fun to your food language and the "food politeness" rule.