As society becomes increasingly aware of junk food’s effects on human health, manufacturers are more careful about the ways the package and advertise unhealthy food products. Foods advertised as low in fat or high in calcium aren’t the best choices if they’re high in sugar content or chemical additives, but kids might not realize the difference if they don’t know how to interpret nutrition labels. Use activities that teach the differences between healthy snacks and junk food to help inform your child and encourage him to make good food choices.
Help kids remember different foods and ingredients to either look for or stay away from with art activities that illustrate their quality. Young kids may benefit from the visual aid of colors that represent “stop” and “go.” To incorporate them, instruct youngsters to paint a big traffic light on poster board. Help them fill the red light in with unhealthy junk food and ingredients, the green light with healthy snacks and ingredients, and the yellow light with food and ingredients to eat occasionally or in moderation. Older kids may enjoy painting mock advertisements that promote or discourage certain snacks, or making collages out of pictures and words cut from magazines.
Games that focus on differences between healthy snacks and junk food allow kids to learn how to make nutritious food choices through play. Write or draw pictures of different healthy snacks and junk foods on index cards. Sit at a table with a bucket in the middle. This will be the “garbage pail.” Everyone takes turns drawing from the pile of cards. Players should keep healthy foods and discard junk foods in the garbage pail. If a healthy snack is accidentally discarded, another player can claim it. Once the cards are gone, determine the winner by tallying up who has the most healthy snacks in their pile. If a player has an unhealthy snack in their pile, they lose a point. Make it challenging for older kids by including tricky ingredients and assigning different point values to the cards.
Food journals can help children keep track of the food choices they make and how different foods make them feel. Instruct kids to write down everything they eat and drink each day, categorizing foods according to food groups an labeling them as healthy or unhealthy. Encourage kids to record how eating different foods make them feel throughout the day -- for example, sluggish or energetic.
Putting it to Practice
Encourage kids to practice healthy food choices by making an activity out of things like preparing lunch or grocery shopping. Set different foods out on the counter and challenge kids to create a well-balanced lunch, choosing items from the choices you’ve provided. Or, make a contest out of grocery shopping, and award the child who chooses the healthiest snack items with an extra healthy treat.