We talked to three Chicago-area nutritionists to hear their take on how parents, schools, and the food industry at large can play a role in helping kids form healthy eating habits.
It starts at home and continues at school
All three health professionals agree that what kids eat at home on a regular basis and what their parents are eating alongside them plays a huge role in what types of food choices kids will make later on and it's as simple as stocking your kitchen with fresh, healthy food.
"In order to get kids to eat healthy foods, parents need to make fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grain, lean meats, available in the household and by incorporating that into their everyday eating the child is more likely to eat healthy as well," said JoAnna Siciliano, RD, an outpatient dietician at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).
It's also perfectly fine to inject fun and play into healthy eating education, Siciliano suggests going through the alphabet when shopping the perimeter of the store to encourage younger kids to expand their palates.
The school environment also feeds into enforcing healthy eating habits, added Kelly Krokker, RD, assistant director of nutrition services at Evanston Township High School (ETHS).
At ETHS, the school lunch program continues to search for new ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables into the students' diets through new programs such as a 'meatless Monday' and planting school gardens.
Garden education has spread across many urban areas such as Chicago with organizations such as Big Green, Gardeners, and Pilot Light all helping schools start outdoor gardens and assist teachers with lesson plans that incorporate food education into lesson plans.
"I think we're always going to be held to the standard that even though we're not teachers, we're still educators in the cafeteria," Krokker added.
Come continue the conversation at FoodNavigator-USA's FOOD FOR KIDS summit in downtown Chicago, Nov. 12-14. Register for the event HERE.