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Child Care Provider Shares: Tips to Teach Little Ones to Eat Healthy

In Lansing, Michigan, child care provider Summer Lettau is teaching young kids to choose healthy options—and enjoy them! Check out her tips to get inspired and help you teach your little ones about eating healthy. 

  • Make menu planning a family activity: Summer and her kids brainstorm meal ideas and decide what’s on the menu for the week. Take a vote at your house (or in the car on the way to the store) and challenge kids to come up with meals and snacks that use nutritious ingredients.

  • Get kids shopping: When Summer heads to the grocery store, she takes her kids along. To get ready for the trip, kids make their own grocery lists of healthy foods and glue together pieces of construction paper in different colors. At the store, they get what’s on their lists and hunt for a vegetable or fruit that matches each of their colors (like purple cabbage, red peppers, orange tangerines, and yellow squash). Try this activity with your kids. If you are too busy for the paper and glue, just try telling your kids a color. To encourage them to be adventurous, try pointing out vegetables and fruits they haven’t tried yet.

Kids at Our House Family Child Care have grown to love veggies (Photo by Summer Lettau) 
  • Bring kids into the kitchen: In Summer’s child care program, kids help prepare their own healthy meals and snacks using the foods they selected at the grocery store. When soup is on the menu, kids wash the vegetables and put them in the pot. Kids also enjoy baking because they get to add ingredients and stir the batter. Try bringing your little ones into the kitchen. When kids get to be chefs, they want to know what their food creations taste like. Even your pickiest eaters might be delighted at the taste of fruits and vegetables and proud of what they’ve made! Remember, kids should wash their hands before they touch the food!

  • Celebrate veggies: “Instead of hiding vegetables in foods, the children know what is in our food because they help to prepare it,” said Summer. “We celebrate how many different veggies we can incorporate and how many unhealthy foods we can substitute with nutritious foods. I want children to internalize the skills needed for healthy eating so when they are making food choices on their own, they know what to do."

  • Keep it simple: Try simple recipes like roasted veggies, bean soup, or baked chicken. You don’t need a recipe with a lot of ingredients to create a delicious dish. Plus, when you choose a simple recipe, you can spend more time teaching kids to prepare healthy foods and enjoying your meal together. 

  • Eat together and make nutrition fun: At the table, Summer serves meals using the recommended “family-style” way so kids get to choose what they eat and how much to serve themselves. Summer explains to her kids which foods belong to which food group — fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, or dairy. Sometimes, Summer leaves one food group off of the table and plays the “What’s Missing” game. Kids have fun figuring out which of the five food groups they need to complete their plates. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to find out more about the food groups and building a healthy plate.

  • Buy in season: Fruits and vegetables are often tastier and less expensive when they’re in season. You can use them in a recipe or offer them raw as a healthy snack.

For more information on Let's Move! Child Care, visit www.healthykidshealthyfuture.org.