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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

‘Eat Smart’ Strategies for School-Age Kids

Mar 06, 2011 03:56PM ● By Kim Childs

Parents can usually control what babies and toddlers eat, but school-age kids face more external influences on their food choices, from peer pressure and social events to aggressive junk-food marketing. Nina Manolson is a certified health coach and family wellness expert in Somerville, with two school-age children of her own. She shares her tips for learning to “BEE” an advocate for healthy eating in the family.

B = Buzz

“In the same way our children are being marketed to, we need to create our own buzz for healthy food,” says Manolson. Instead of offering a smoothie with the news that it’s nutritious, tell kids that it’s delicious, with a secret hidden ingredient or fruit to discover. The same excitement can be generated at dinner, she says. “If you’re making sautéed spinach, say, ‘I have a magic trick. Do you think I can make this huge pile of greens fit into this tiny bowl?’”

Another of Manolson’s mealtime strategies is placing condiments such as Italian or French spice blends, tamari and lemon pepper on the table and enticing children to, “ travel to another country with their food,” by adding spices. This allows children to play chef and customize their meals.

E = Empower

Manolson recommends taking kids grocery shopping and inviting them to select appealing fruits or vegetables. “This way, you’re empowering them to be an active participant in eating healthy, and they become part of the hunting and gathering process,” she says. Be sure everyone eats before shopping, she adds, so there is less temptation in the cookie aisle.

“The other part of empowerment is to get them in the kitchen,” says Manolson. “Giving kids the tools and skills they need to make delicious food is very empowering.”

E = Educate

Parents should talk to kids about how food affects their bodies, Manolson advises. “We raise our children to know math, but we also need to create food-literate children.” In addition, she says, establish which foods are unacceptable in the family, make healthful substitutions (for example, honey instead of refined sugar, homemade goods over packaged) and be a good example.

“You have to walk the talk,” says Manolson. “If Mom can be the example of walking down a buffet line and making healthy choices, that’s how children learn.”

For more information, contact Nina Manolson at 617-771-5121 or visit