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Community Connection For Child Care

Kern County Superintendent of Schools

Tips for Creating a Healthy Eating Environment

Parents and child care providers share the responsibility of helping children eat well. You can do simple things every day to help children make healthy food choices now and as they grow!

  • Take it on the road! There are many places to learn about good food right in your own community. Try field trips to grocery stores, orchards, and farmers markets. For example, at the grocery store you can discuss which foods are healthy and why. This way you can have fun with the children and build their interest in healthy eating at the same time.
  • Play with your food! Have healthy ‘play’ food such as fruits, vegetables and multicultural foods that children can use to pretend play trying new foods and serving meals to their friends.
  • Decorate. Have decorations, child artwork and posters of healthy foods and children enjoying eating. Also laminate the food guide pyramid and pictures of corresponding foods.
  • Hit the books! Choose books at the library or bookstore that weave a good message about nutritious and adventuresome eating into the story line. Discuss what you read. Ask questions along the way. Did the character learn and eat the food that was good for them? What foods are good for you?
  • Treats don’t always have to be sweets. Today’s children are bombarded with candy treats, sugary snacks, and foods that offer fun, but no nutritional value. Teach your child to appreciate nutritious treats: fresh strawberries, the first apples of fall, fresh-picked corn-on-the-cob, and home-baked bread. Talk about why these treats are better than sweets.
  • Grow a garden. Gardening promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables for kids by making fresh fruits and vegetables readily available, adding in the excitement of eating something healthy because you grew it, creating a greater appreciation for how food is grown and providing opportunities to practice preparing nutritious foods and new foods.
  • Set the stage. Create a positive environment for eating at the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table! Create a pleasant, supportive and unhurried environment in which your children can enjoy healthy foods. Meal and snack times should be happy times. If there is enjoyable, light conversation and relaxing background music playing, it is more likely that appetites and dispositions will be good.
  • Make edible art. Children love to create. Make some edible art! They can learn about nutrition bite by bite.
    • Cereal necklace. String O-shaped cereal and dried apples (with holes through the pieces) on a piece of string or dental floss. Have fun wearing it, then snacking on it!
    • Breakfast banana split. Cut a banana in half lengthwise and place it in an ice cream bowl (a “banana split” bowl would be ideal). Place two scoops of cooked, cooled oatmeal, made on the “thick” side, in the middle of the bowl. Drizzle lightly with fruit-only jam or apple butter. Add a dollop of yogurt to each scoop. Garnish with fresh strawberries, cherries, and top with chopped nuts or granola.
    • Pretty pizzas. Use pita bread or English muffins sliced in half. Spread on the tomato sauce, then make a face or design with cheese triangles, sliced olives, strips of bell peppers, and sliced deli meats. Heat in the oven until the cheese starts to melt.
    • Fruit caterpillars. Cut up an assortment of fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, grapes, bananas, oranges). Have children skewer a mixed assortment on shish kebob sticks. Serve with vanilla yogurt for the dip.
  • Serve up plenty of praise. Acknowledging good eating habits with positive feedback will produce lasting positive effects. Praise children for making good food choices and trying new foods like “I’m so proud that you’re learning to make good food choices to help you grow strong and be smart!”, “Wow! I see all the food groups on your plate!” and “Yummy – those vegetables and fruits are my favorites, too!
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