“To provide opportunities for students to put theory into practice, nutrition education should go beyond the classroom” –W.T. Yeung, PhD
There are an endless number of research conducted which focuses on understanding how the today’s youth make dietary decisions. I have interpreted a consistent theme in most of these studies: That simply educating students about proper nutrition and partaking in some form of physical activity is not enough. Take for example a studied conducted by Yeung et al (2010) that sampled 836 students (age 11-18; 41% male & 59% female) and looked at perceptions of body weight and image, their eating attitudes and behaviors, eating habits, food knowledge, and perceptions and mastery of cooking skills. The study concluded that despite a majority (94%) having studied food and nutrition in their curriculum, felt competent in making healthful food choices (67%), learned to cook (86%), had “food label-reading skills” (75%), and the majority (92%) knew the benefits of exercising, less than half ate breakfast every day and fruit and vegetable consumption was below recommended daily intakes (RDI).
I strongly believe that there needs to be a radical change in how we implement dietary education. Our youth need to develop long-term focus in their dietary habits, i.e. life-long work on the process to improve their nutrition and physical activity…not a focus on instant results and diet-trends. How can this be achieved? I can share my personal experiences in what has allowed me to improve (and continue to improve) my overall dietary habits.
Stock up well: The easiest way to influence your child as a parent is to stock your pantry and fridge with healthy foods. It’s surprising how quickly kids will adapt their diet based on what is provided at home. Yes, you might be indirectly forcing you’re kid to choose an apple over processed apple sauce, but someone needs to crack the wipe to get them on the right track.
“The Sauce is the Boss”: Cooking is still an important process in teaching proper nutrition. A study (HERE) by the University of Minnesota found a direct influence of family meals have on influencing adolescents to eat a healthy diet. The most enjoyable process of cooking, I believe, is preparing the sauce. Using a different sauce creates a different experience even for the same meal. Getting your child to start cooking is one thing…but to get them hooked, then teaching them a handful of simple sauces is the way. HERE is a list of simple sauces that can be taught. Also, what about giving your child the responsibility to preparing a complete meal for the family every now and then…the parent should help, of course. Another benefit for making sauces…you can easily incorporate several veggies in a batch of your favorite sauce (e.g., tomato sauce for a pasta meal).