Part Three: Simple Ways to Empower Your Children and Family in Healthy Eating

Here is your second tip on helping your children and family improve their eating habits and increase their nutritional intake. Remember: make it fun!

#2 One of the best ways I have found to help children grasp and conceptualize what “healthy eating” really means is to challenge them to eat the rainbow every day. This applies to all ages, not just young children! Oftentimes, this will get a child onboard in making the decision to eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies.  It is so helpful to determine together whether or not they ate the whole rainbow that day and discuss what they need to include the next day. (Note: Only real food included in this challenge! If they ate fruit loops that morning I can assure you that they did not get all of the nutrients that come along with colorful fruits and veggies.) You could even make a food chart and hang it up for the family to see. Each day, check off which colors you and your family ate (this can also be very eye-opening for you as well!). If your child likes competition, create a family challenge to see who can consume the most colors each day and have fun rewards each week/month. This opens up a great conversation as well, which is always a bonus. For older kids, it would also be a fun challenge to find out which vitamins and minerals they consumed that day by eating the rainbow and record those as well.

More tips to follow! Stay tuned.

Food Day Reflections: Access to healthy food is a basic necessity for all.

I had the privilege to help out with quite a few events a few weeks ago related to Food Day (more like food week!). I attended events taking place in Waltham, Somerville, Wellesley (at Babson College) and Boston (at the State House). We had rich conversations around food access, sustainability, local farming, food waste and much more. One thing that cannot be denied is the food movement that is taking place in Massachusetts right now. I had originally thought this was primarily an “underground revolution” but soon came to find out that our politicians, schools, and the general public are all catching the wave of excitement. Those in the Massachusetts government do seem to care quite a bit about making these dreams a reality, as the necessity of these topics are becoming unavoidable.

My personal passion is food accessibility. This involves the belief that everyone has the basic right to food that is accessible, fresh, and healthy. This topic caught my attention years ago when I was in college pursuing my Public Health Degree. As you probably know, many people do not have access to fresh, wholesome foods. For example, a person in the inner city may use their local convience store as a main source of groceries, without easy access a large grocery store. The problem of course is the quality of food choices and lack of fresh fruits and veggies to choose from.  Not only are these foods physically inaccessible, but financially inaccessible. These are just a few major obstacles that thousands of people face daily. For many, healthy nutritious eating often isn’t a simple choice of picking one item over another but rather a matter of accessibility.

How can someone be expected to make the “healthy choice” when they have never been educated on how to cook different foods, they do not have access to healthy food choices and/or cannot afford them in the first place? If a mother needs to make a choice between full bellies (with processed foods) and a salad (with fresh foods), she will often need to choose whatever leads to full bellies at the end of the day. One goal of this movement is to make the healthy choice the easy and accessible choice. Of course, this is just a myopic view of the realities that thousands are facing everyday and I cannot attempt to cover the topic in its entirety here today.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of work to be done and this feels like an enormous task. But we must start somewhere. I, for one, am very encouraged and excited about all the progress we have already been making!

Join the movement and help us raise awareness and create change! For more information on how to help and see upcoming events please click here.



Part Two: Simple Ways to Empower Your Children and Family in Healthy Eating

In my last post about children’s nutrition, we decided that helping children eat well must be a priority. Let’s take a look at where we can start!

As a nutrition health educator for elementary and middle school kids, I get to work with curious, growing minds, many of whom are eager to learn. In each class, we talk about nourishing our bodies, the importance of eating “real” food, exercising, and general health. Their favorite part, however, is preparing hands-on recipes in the second half of class. From kindergarten to seventh grade, these children come in with a wide range of “food knowledge” i.e. the ability to prepare food, use a knife, the knowledge of different fruits/veggies, etc. It is easy to point out the children in my classes that have been taught to value their health and the food they eat, as well as children who have been given little direction other than to “eat what tastes good”.

Essentially, kids (at this age) will value what we teach them and show them to value. Unfortunately, children are often shown at a young age by food companies what to eat and what not to eat. They love their sugar, McDonalds, and Cheetos! It is easy to say that this is simply “kids being kids” but if they do not have the tools to make nutritional decisions, these companies will win the battle.

We must not let food companies be our children’s only influence when it comes to health! Let’s go further than simply telling them to “eat their vegetables” and begin to involve them in an on-going conversation about what being healthy really means.

In my class, children begin to see that there is a correlation between what they eat, how they feel, and the future of their health. I’ve learned that children deserve more credit than assuming they will not want to try new foods and eat only sugary, processed foods. They are far more open to new, healthy food than you might imagine! [For example, I once had a young girl insist that she is “allergic” to guacamole and after preparing it herself and eating her obligatory “one bite,” she gobbled it all up!].

We must take time to teach children to value their health and nurture their bodies. If you, as an adult, are confused about the messages society is giving you- don’t give up! Do your best to eat whole, real (unprocessed) foods most of the time, and talk to your kids about the importance of eating well and caring for their bodies.

So, where do we start? 

1.) Begin talking! Talk with your children (or students) about food choices and how they relate to health. Ask them their opinion, ask what they already know, answer questions they have and ask which healthy foods they like to eat. If you don’t know the answer to a question, make it a point to learn the answer together by asking a professional or researching online. Discuss: Why should they eat their veggies? What’s the big deal about getting enough fruit? Why does it matter if they drink that soda?

Stay tuned for more tips!


Food Day!

Food Day logo

Happy National Food Day everyone!! I’ve helped out with many events this week concerning Food Day (with one more tomorrow!) and I am excited to share with you what I learned and observed. Stay posted for my thoughts from this week.

Check it out:

“October 24 is a day to resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level. In 2014, Food Day will have a special focus on food access and justice for food and farm workers.

This annual event involves some of the country’s most prominent food activists, united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.

With Food Day, we can celebrate our food system when it works and fix it when it’s broken. Across the country, more than 4,700 events took place in 2013 and 3,200 in 2012, from community festivals in Denver, Savannah, and New York City, to a national conference in Washington, DC, to thousands of school activities in Portland, Minneapolis, and elsewhere.”

Welcome to Culture of Wellness.

It’s frustrating figuring out how to care well for your body and soul, for other people and for your world all at the same time.

Culture of Wellness is a community where we learn to eat well, pray honestly, exercise regularly, think clearly and care deliberately.

Culture of Wellness aims to educate, motivate and empower you to thrive gracefully in mind, body and soul. Our focus is on cultivating inner wellness that will lead to outward wholeness for ourselves, for others and for our world. Culture of Wellness is about developing the healthy habits of prayer, exercise, and nutrition in order to have satisfying relationships with ourselves, with God, with others and with our environment.