“Eat Healthy, Feel Great” by William and Martha Sears and Christie Watts Kelly (Preschool and up) is an excellent educational book to read during mealtime (or any time of day). It’s a valuable book to have in your library because it can be a great resource to refer back to when trying to teach your children about “healthy eating”.
The authors categorize foods into “green light foods”, “yellow light foods” and “red light foods”. They clearly and simply explain what nutrients are as well as vitamins, protein, fiber and much more. There are two recipes included in the book as well as a poster of the green, yellow and red light foods. I hung the poster up right near the kitchen table so my kids can see all the time what foods are “healthy for your body” and what foods “should be eaten sparingly”. Now, each time one of my children asks for a “red light food” (e.g. cotton candy), I can refer to the poster and explain that red light foods don’t make your body feel good or give you energy to play.
According to Allison Topilow MS, RD, CDN, nutrition consultant, it is important to teach children how to choose well-balanced meals and snacks that include green light foods most of the time but also how to incorporate yellow and red light foods in moderation. Introduce new foods. If your child is hesitant to try a new food, be sure to continue to offer this food on a regular basis along with foods you know they already enjoy. This way they will not go hungry and will be exposed to a greater variety of foods (and hopefully eat them one day soon!) Work on teaching children to listen to their bellies and focus on eating when they are physically hungry versus bored, tired, upset, etc.
With this book, encourage conversation about healthy foods, expand on your child’s vocabulary (define keywords such as “nutrients”, “vitamin C”, etc) and help categorize foods according to the “traffic light” or food groups. Work on the concepts including colors, food groups and encourage answering and asking “wh” questions. Discuss the foods on your child’s plate and encourage your child to have a “rainbow plate”.
My family and I loved this book so much that my daughter wanted me to present to her class. I wanted to make this a very visual and interactive activity that all of the children could participate in. With a large piece of oak tag, I drew a child on one side and the other side was a traffic light that I created (used construction paper). To prepare for the project, my children and I went through various magazines and cut out all different foods. I happen to have a lot of food magazines at home but you can easily use circulars or any catalog. I set aside one or two foods for each student in class. I then printed out all of the important keywords that the authors discussed such as nutrients, food dyes, minerals, etc. For each keyword, I printed out the food that can be associated with it best (e.g. orange for Vitamin C, bacon for preservatives)]. Providing a visual with the word immensely helps to improve literacy and improves the association between the word and visual.
During the activity, each student received a keyword and one picture of a food (that was cut out from the magazine). During the first part of the lesson, each child took their keyword (e.g. nutrient) and either placed it “in the body”, “outside the body” or “in between”. For something such as Vitamin C, we put it in the body. For “food dyes” we put it outside the body because it is not healthy for you. After that part of the lesson, we flipped the oak tag over and each child took a turn taping their food on what traffic light they thought it was (e.g. “peas ” on green light, etc). The lesson was a real success and both the teachers and students all loved it. You can easily modify it for younger or older students.
***Tip***I expanded this concept of green, yellow and red light to activities. For example, TV is a yellow light activity. We can’t watch it all the time, just sometimes. Try it!
Becca Eisenberg is a certified speech language pathologist and mom of two.Through her own personal challenges at mealtime with her two young children she ventured on creating a website to help parents facilitate language and make mealtime fun. Her website gravitybread.com focuses on facilitating and encouraging language with fun and easy recipes, educational books and recommended toys and apps.
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