One reason for today’s childhood obesity epidemic is that children do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. Instead, they fill up on packaged food with little to no nutritional value. But how do you get your kids excited about eating more fruits and veggies? Introduce them to farmers markets!
This is especially important if you ask your child where vegetables come from, and she answers, “The grocery store.”
With the arrival of spring comes the return of farmers markets throughout most of the United States. In addition to helping the local economy when you regularly visit farmers markets, you can help your kids combat childhood obesity simply because of the personal connection that children make with the people who grow their food.
Let Your Child Decide What’s for Dinner
Children love to shop. In the grocery store, it can be dangerous to allow your child to shop for himself because kids often gravitate toward the high sugar, high salt, packaged foods they see advertised on TV. But at a farmers market, you can give your child a few dollars and let him choose something that looks delicious to him.
Make the experience a multisensory one. Encourage him to admire all the colors of fresh produce. Talk about how you can tell when various fruits and vegetables are ripe. Smell the produce. If farmers offer small samples, let your child take a bite and then tell you what he thinks.
When your child settles on a purchase, don’t question the decision, even if it’s an unconventional choice. Together, you can find recipes online for anything you buy. If it’s not a hit, tell your child that he can choose something else next week. Make a game of it!
Meet Local Farmers
As you’re walking around the farmers market, encourage your child to ask questions of the farmers. How long does it take to grow green beans? What time of year should you plant a tomato?
And my favorite question: Do you welcome visitors to your farm? Farmers are some of the hardest workers of any career field, but even so, many will allow visitors from time to time. Visiting a farm is another amazing way to help your child look at vegetables as a good thing. As you and your child walk through rows of plants, you can foster a sense of wonder at the incredible life cycle of plants.
While you’re there, buy a dozen fresh eggs if you get the chance! Breakfast for dinner with farm fresh eggs is an experience your child won’t soon forget.
Grow Your Own Vegetables
The farmers market might inspire your child to want to grow something of her own. You might not have the space or time to grow a vegetable garden in your back yard, but do you have enough time to grow one plant in a pot? Choose a plant that is likely to succeed, such as a tomato or a green bean. You can even read Jack & the Beanstalk before you get started, although that story might set up unreasonable expectations in young children. Let your child dig the hole, plant the seed, and care for the plant as it grows. And, of course, your little farmer gets the first bite of the delicious results.
How to Find a Farmers Market Near You
LocalHarvest.org has a database of thousands of farmers markets around the country. Search for your zip code to find a farmers market near you. Enjoy nature’s bounty!