Healthy Children - January 2013


Nutrition Building Blocks
Key Concepts, Ah-has and IMILisms

  • Children are overfed, undernourished, and dehydrated: adults are too.
  • Nourish children, don’t just feed them. Nourish yourself, don’t just feed yourself.
  • Children must be nourished to be ready to learn.
  • Promote healthy food choices everyday wherever children navigate in the program and at home.
  • Avoid labeling foods as good or bad, which causes conflict between school and home. Instead refer to the foods as “healthy” and “not so healthy.”


Nutritional Awareness: Build Food and Drink Skills by

  • Following picture charts
  • Observing changes (heating/cooling)
  • Comparing quantities
  • Juicing oranges, lemons, and limes
  • Peeling fruits and vegetables (bananas and even onions)
  • Mashing soft fruit and vegetables
  • Scrubbing vegetables (carrots, potatoes, mushrooms)
  • Cutting soft foods with a dull knife (mushrooms, hardboiled eggs)
  • Pressing and kneading dough
  • Measuring dry ingredients
  • Cracking open/breaking eggs
  • Beating eggs with an egg beater
  • Setting the table
  • Wiping up after cooking
  • Clearing the table after a meal
  • Grating cheese or carrots
  • Stirring batter or soup


Children Learn From Food Preparation and Nutrition Experiences:

  • Fine and gross motor
  • Following directions
  • Sequence and matching
  • Social Skills
  • Observing, sorting, classifying skills
  • All learning domains integrated in a planned nutrition experience


Nutrition Is Directly Associated With School Readiness:

  • Iron-poor diets are associated with weak math skills
  • More frequent family meals are associated with fewer risk-taking behaviors in adolescence.
  • Low-income children have fewer emotional problems and behavior concerns when fed healthy food.
  • Research in school concludes that children have improved math and reading test scores and few absences when they receive a healthy breakfast.


Accepting the Division of Responsibility:

“Our job is to expose children to a variety of healthy foods, colorful choices, textures, tastes, and drink choices. The parent or caregiver is responsible for what, when, and where; the child is responsible for how much and whether.”

   --Ellyn Satter, M.S., RD (from her book How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much)

Be choosy, Be Nourished Messages:

  • Eat more foods found around the sides of the store like fresh dairy, fresh produce, fresh meat, fish, and whole grain breads.
  • Eat an apple instead of apple juice—the fiber in a whole apple is more nutritious and provides a feeling of satiety. “Satiety” is the feeling of fullness.
  • Drinking more water is the single most effective change to make in your lifestyle. Allow access to fresh drinking water at all times for children.
  • It takes at least 10 to 15 exposures to new food for children to try it. Keep trying.
  • Three-year-old children self-regulate their food intake, but 4- to 5-year old children are learning to clean their plates because they want to please adults, so they often eat more than they should.
  • Rigid control backfires.
  • Do everything in moderation
  • We need to help parents learn to CHOOSE healthy foods.
  • Diets improve the more the mother knows about nutrition.
  • Powerful parenting includes being a healthy role model. Children say what parents/adults say and do what they see parents/adults do.
  • Positive emotions and conversations aid in digestion.
  • Families that eat together, eat healthier.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day: Students who eat breakfast have high achievement scores, lower rates of absence and tardiness, and increased concentration in the classroom.
  • Avoid mindless snacking by selecting and planning snacks ahead of snack time.
  • Children are more likely to select healthy foods if they participate in preparation and eat creatively designed snacks.
  • Make healthy snacks readily available and within easy reach.
  • Use hunger as a motivator—A picky eater who chooses to go hungry one meal will be more willing to eat at the next.
  • If you try new foods and choose nutritious foods and meals and snacks, children will too.
  • Create a Courtesy Bite or “thank you bite” in the program and at home. Make it a new family rule—everyone tries one bite of each food offered at a meal. Make a game of it!
  • Growing food in gardens builds a connection between children and healthy foods. Children are more likely to eat healthy good if they feel a connection with the food.