Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Top Tip - Educate (Not Mandate)

Today's top tip comes from Big Sprout . . . when I asked him what he thought would most help kids chose healthy foods, he said it was teaching them how food affects their bodies - that whole, plant-based foods contain micronutrients the body needs to stay healthy while processed foods make our bodies work harder and affect our body both inside and out. Okay, so I added the "micronutrientss" part, but that was the gist of his idea.

It really made me happy to hear, because we've always tried to educate the kids on the reasons for our choices - on both why healthy foods are important and the specific reasons we avoid trans-fat, HFCS, animal foods and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. I know that I can only control their food choices for so long, so educating them about nutrition is my "insurance policy" for keeping them on the healthy path (hopefully!) once they're old enough to be the ones calling the shots at the grocery store and in the kitchen.

One of our favorite, at-home experiments is to demonstrate what happens when our arteries get clogged from eating too much high-fat, processed foods. Want to try it? Take two plastic straws, and stuff a bit of Play-doh into one of them (enough that you can still blow through it but it takes some effort to make the air flow through). Now take turns blowing through each of the straws.

With healthy diet and lifestyle choices, you can keep your arteries like the empty straw - the blood can flow through them as easily as you can blow through this straw. But poor choices (no matter how tasty!) can cause your arteries to become clogged over time, like the Play-doh straw. You have to work harder to blow air through it, just like your heart has to work harder to pump blood through clogged arteries.

Follow it up with some thought-provoking questions ("What do you think happens when your heart has to work harder and harder with no rest?", "What do you think would happen if we added more Play-doh to the straw every day?"), and you'll make a much stronger argument for munching on veggies than "because I said so" (although I've been known to use that on occasion, too!)


  1. Interesting coincidence, was just reading about a raw food chef down in Plantation, who talked a similar analogy, when watching folks clean out the grease trap at the burger joint next to his restaurant: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/cleanplatecharlie/2011/02/post.php

    I tell ya, it was how much cleaner our kitchen sink was, not having to scrub out grease, that really sold us! Luckily you're helping convince your kids a lot younger...

  2. Oh, I can't even imagine. Going to check out the link now . . . :)