How to help your kids have a healthy relationship with food.

by Jenn Hand

In a world filled with sugar- laden treats, processed foods that fill the grocery aisles and schedules that make it hard to sit down for a family meal, it can be challenging to teach kids how to make nutritious choices and encourage them to havea healthy relationship to what they eat.

But a foundation of healthy eating helps kids develop phys- ically, mentally and emotion- ally. Fueling their bodies with food that serves their growth impacts every other area of their lives.

It’s a parent’s responsibility to show the next generation how to have a healthy rela- tionship to food. We’ve got to teach them to sift through confusing, often contradictory nutritional info and learn how to listen to their bodies.

So how do we ensure our kids develop a healthy relation- ship with what they eat? Here are three tips to help you teach your kids how to have a bal- anced relationship with food.

1. Get Their Hands Dirty.

Gardening is a great activity for kids, both physically and men- tally. It also encourages healthy eating – because part of the fun of gardening is getting to eat what you grow. When kids play an in-depth role in how their food is grown, it builds positive healthy habits that trickle out into the rest of their lives.

In addition to teaching chil- dren where their food comes from, cultivating a garden encourages kids to consider new food options. A child who has had a hand in growing kale, peppers, eggplant or even spinach is far more open to try- ing these types of vegetables than the typical kid.

Various garden centers have classes to help kids explore the ins and outs of garden- ing. Growing Gardens, www. growinggardens.org, offers a plethora of workshops, field trips, garden instruction and more for families and kids alike. Andrea Vanderbilt, a Fort Collins-based garden guru and the owner of Teach Me To Grow, www.teachmetogrow.com, shows families how to start their own gardens and of- fers educational classes on the art of home-grown food.

2. Dive Into Cooking.

Like gardening, cooking has many beneficial effects on kids’ eating habits. In addition to learning practical food skills and kitchen safety, cooking teaches kids that quality, nutritious foods can also be tasty.

Research has shown that children who are involved in meal prep display more willingness to eat new foods, especially vegetables. Teaching kids to shop for and prepare food exposes children to healthy options in a creative, engaging way.

There are some wonderful options for local cooking classes to help your children (and you) create delicious local fare. Downtown Fort Collins’ Ginger and Baker has a state-of-the- art teaching kitchen, www.gingerand baker.com/the-teaching-kitchen, that offers cooking classes for kids, teens and families. Sapna Von Reich,
www.sapnavonreich.com, a NOCO-based food educator and coach, teaches parents and kids to explore cooking.

3. Explore Yoga.

Although yoga may appear separate from healthy eating, the two are actually quite intertwined. Yoga encourages breath, movement and stillness, putting us more in touch with our bodies. This, in turn, translates into making healthier food choices.

Kids can only be in tune with how food affects their bodies when they are in touch with the body itself! Yoga provides a link between what we eat and how it makes us feel. When kids are conscious of how their body and mind feel, they will intuitively know when they are out of balance and need more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Yoga also encourages mindfulness, so the act of slowing down, breathing and just “being” enables our kids (and us!) to naturally make choices that support our own innate health.

There are a wide variety of yoga studios in NOCO, so visit a studio near you to try out one of their classes. Live Beyond Limit, www.live beyondlimit.com, has unique offerings for kids ranging from circus classes toaerial yoga to kids camps. Both Wind- sor Yoga Family, www.windsoryoga family.com, and Family Balance Yoga, www.childrensyogainfortcollinsco. com/family-yoga, offer fun and cre- ative yoga classes for families with all levels of yoga experience.

A local family helps tend the garden at Teach Me To Grow. | All photos courtesy of Andrea Vanderbilt

Ultimately, teaching our children to have a healthy relationship with food begins with ourselves. 

Showing them how we take care of our own bodies, support ourselves with nutritious eat- ing, and slow down to enjoy our food models to our kids just how important it is to work on their own relationship to food.