The Picky Eaters Project: Kids and Nutrition

Melissa explains how she teaches her kids about the concepts of basic nutrition.

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Valentine (left) and Charlotte (right) read a nutrition label

In Episode 4 of The Picky Eaters Project, you'll see Valentine reading off the nutrition label. Then the girls dive into the sugar bowl to see how much sugar really is in that can of soda they love. What’s the point of this activity?

A couple years ago, we were sitting at the dinner table and I asked Margaux, "Did you have any of your veggies yet?" "No, Mommy, but I ate all my chicken," she responded. In her mind, she had looped the chicken and veggies together as healthy foods — she didn't know that each provided a different function. That was the moment I realized there was a lesson to be learned here.

These are really basic concepts: Kids want to do the right thing; they're smart. I think if they have a little age-appropriate context, they get on board. My kids want to eat healthy because they know they feel better when they do. They'll ask for something and then ask if it's healthy.

For example, one of my girls may be eating rice cakes while the other eats a whole-grain cereal. They'll then ask which one is healthier. They'll run and get the boxes to compare. One doesn't have sugar, but it also doesn't have much protein. The other has more sugar, but has fiber and protein as well. It's not just about what's healthier. It's about giving them the basic knowledge of how fiber, protein and vitamins affect our bodies.

They can appreciate the need to vary their diets and to me that's a great message. More importantly, it's fun for them. Ask your kids to find the difference in white and brown rice.

It's part of a bigger parenting philosophy: It no longer becomes about my husband or me forbidding a certain food or snack, or saying "it's not good for you." That depersonalizes it and makes it about authority. It's not a power struggle between you and your kids. It puts the decision into the facts and reasoning.

Power struggles are part of picky eating. Kids just want to assert their power. By giving your kids the information, we're redirecting that need for power into an appropriate and useful outlet — utilizing the power of education.

It helps to redirect the power struggles. Saying, "let's see what the labels say" puts you both on the same team.

Kids love to show off their knowledge, both to their families and to themselves. Teach them the concept of tradeoffs in budgeting sugar intake. See how many grams are really in that soda by giving them a spoon and having them dish sugar into a bowl. It's teaching them to be mindful of what they're putting into their bodies.

These activities aren't about creating "forbidden foods." They’re about being mindful.

Watch all eight episodes and find out more about Melissa's Picky Eaters Project.

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