Kids Make Healthy Choices, Given The Chance

Annrose M. Guarino, Claesgens, Mark A.  |  7/27/2007 9:04:16 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 07/27/07

Kids will make healthy choices, choosing fruits and vegetables over less nutritious foods, when given the chance, according to LSU AgCenter food and nutrition professor Dr. Annrose Guarino.

"Encourage healthy eating by creating a supportive healthy environment in which parents, older kids, grandparents and other caregivers model healthy eating," Guarino said, adding, "A role model is the best way to influence eating habits."

Involve children in shopping, cooking family meals and even gardening to get kids interested in fruits and vegetables and healthy eating.

Children learn by touching, tasting, feeling, smelling and listening. They love to help prepare food and cook because they can use all their senses. Children like to eat the foods they make. Plan ways the children in your care can help you. Activities are possible for all ages.

Babies, for example, will enjoy being with you and the sights, sounds and smells of the kitchen. Talk about what you are doing as you move about. Name the cooking utensils and foods. Talk about what they like to eat. Give older babies a separate bowl and spoon so they can mix foods that are safe for them to eat. Give them play foods or toy pots, pans, bowls and spoons to help "cook."

The 2-year-olds are learning to use the large muscles in their arms. They will enjoy scrubbing vegetables and fruits, dipping vegetables and fruits, tearing lettuce and salad greens, breaking bread for stuffing, snapping fresh beans and wiping tables.

When shopping with toddlers, talk about the names, shapes, colors and sizes of fruits and vegetables. Mention if the fruit or vegetable is part of a flower, stem, root, seed or tuber.

The 3-year-olds are learning to use their hands. They’ll like pouring liquids into a batter, mixing muffin batter, shaking a milk drink, spreading peanut butter on firm bread (this could be messy!) and kneading bread dough.

The 4- and 5-year-olds are learning to control smaller muscles in their fingers. Offer them experiences such as rolling bananas in cereal for a snack; juicing oranges, lemons and limes; mashing soft fruits and vegetables; measuring dry and liquid ingredients; grinding cooked meat for meat spread and beating eggs with an eggbeater.

Take preschoolers grocery shopping with you. Have them help put items in bags and count as they do. Let them smell the fragrance of the fruit or vegetable; then have them close their eyes to see if they can identify the item by name. Spell the names of fruits and vegetables.

Talk to grade schoolers about how fruits and vegetables are grown and where they are grown. Talk about fruits and vegetables eaten in other cultures, and try new ones. Let grade schoolers make simple, no-bake recipes.

When cooking, all ages can learn the importance of good hand washing and sanitation techniques. If the counter is too high, use a sturdy step stool.

For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter homepage at For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:
Contact: Annrose Guarino (225) 578-1425 or
Editor: Mark Claesgens (225) 578-2939 or

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