You don’t have to be a nutritionist to talk to kids about whole food. This conversation, which helps kids build lifelong skills around taking care of themselves, should be passed on from adult to child. It’s an important conversation to have, like many others in their lives, but it doesn’t have to be boring or awkward. Learning about nourishment can be so fun–especially when you share the time with children. The amazing thing is, most kids know more about whole foods than we think!
Since March is National Nutrition Month, I thought a great way to celebrate food and bring awareness around nutrition was to get into a classroom and blend up some goodness with kids . I went into a class of sixth graders and together with their teacher, we got the blenders going and threw a Green Smoothie Party. It was a pile of fun, it was simple to do, and not only did the kids learn a few things, but I did, too!
Food is always an exciting topic with grade school kids and, in my experience, is one that keeps them engaged and enthusiastic–sometimes to the point where they are bouncing out of their seats, eager to share what they know about nourishment. This type of conversation can be made even more fun if there is something yummy for you and the children to prepare together.
Why not have a Green Smoothie Party on St. Patrick’s Day in a classroom in your neighborhood? Contact your child’s teacher, do a bit of homework on the ingredients in your smoothie, buy your food and you are ready to go! Just pack up your blender, a knife and some delicious, smoothie-worthy whole foods and go blend and dance and celebrate well-nourished kids!
The idea is to open a dialogue with kids around the subject of whole food. Get them thinking about things like the impact that skipping breakfast has on their body, or how soda pop can make their bones brittle. Ask them what they know about foods and nutrients and get them considering how what they put in their bodies every morning directly affects what they get out of their day. What they know may surprise you!
Here is a recipe to help get you started.
Super Duper Green Smoothie
. 1 avocado (ripe) Good fats for brain health and healthy hair and skin
. 1 small bunch of kale Calcium for bones and B vitamins for energy and brain health
. 1 small banana Potassium for a strong heartbeat
. 1 tsp coconut oil Magnesium to relax muscles, and good fat for brain, tummy, hair, skin
. 1/2 tsp spirulina This is a superfood that comes from the sea. It contains almost all the nutrients you need! It is really a whole food!
. 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider For natural sweetness
. 1/4 cup mango coconut water (not from concentrate)?Electrolytes your cells need to talk to each other– nature’s sports drink!
. 2 tbsp hemp seed or 1/2 cup organic vanilla greek yogurt Protein for muscle building
. unpasteurized honey to taste
. ice (or use frozen banana)
Add avocado, banana, coconut oil to blender. Sprinkle in spirulina. Add apple cider and begin to blend, adding other wet ingredients until desired texture is reached. Add honey slowly until it is sweet enough. Yum!
The food industry assumes that children want beige, bland, sweet and boring food products, and that kids are picky and controlling when it comes to what they eat. That may be true for some, but after today’s Green Smoothie Party, I know differently for sure.
I walked into the classroom full of grade six students, armed with my blender, some kale and avocados, and a sort of twisted sense of adventure. I was a little nervous that this sometimes-judgmental group of preteens might be resistant to drinking something green. I thought they would screw up their faces and stick out their tongues and exclaim nasty things about the green smoothies I was demonstrating as a part of their Whole Foods Nutrition unit in Health. Instead, a fight broke out about who got to have seconds, and even thirds, and whether they preferred spinach over kale.
When I asked them what they thought whole foods were, the answers were surprising: “Food that comes from the Earth”; “Food that has not been processed or changed by chemicals”; and “Food that doesn’t contain additives or preservatives.” They already knew! When I asked how many of them take fish oil supplements at breakfast, about eighty percent of them put up their hands. These kids, from a variety of ethnicities, income levels and neighborhoods are smart. Their daily nutrition and the interest that their parents and their school take in their health has got to have something to do with it.
They knew that sugar suppresses their immune systems, and many of them do their best to avoid it, most of the time. They knew that vitamins give them energy, and that vitamins come from brightly colored plants. They didn’t even balk at my gross-out ace in the hole: showing them that they could eat kale for breakfast. Thank goodness we had something to blend and drink because these kids left very little for me to tell them that they didn’t already know. When it was smoothie time, EVERY kid had a glass, no one scrunched up his or her face in disgust, and as I said, they clamored for more. They told me that their smoothies tasted fresh, scrumptious, delicious, and energizing–words that some adults struggle to use sometimes in relation to food.
I have been practicing nutrition for almost a decade, and I have certainly seen a crescendo in relation to how well-informed children are about their food. This is an encouraging trend. In a world where we hear so much about childhood obesity, the perils of a fast-food lifestyle and early childhood morbidity, it is so refreshing to know that parents and educators are listening. Children are being nourished. And parents are learning and doing the best they can. The courses that Rouxbe has created are brilliant tools for helping families move past the fear, the confusion and the disorganization of trying to prepare nourishing meals. For the first time in a long time, I’m comforted knowing that kids are getting their veggies. They are growing their minds and bodies, and eating well. And most importantly they are using real food to do this. They are getting into the kitchen, making themselves snacks, and learning one of the most important life skills of all: to feed themselves–one smoothie at a time.
I am heading back to the classroom on St. Patrick’s Day for another Green Smoothie Party, but this time, the spin will be a bit different. The kids will be presenting their ideas to their class on what they would put into their own Green Smoothie. We will choose five different ones from the group that represent different flavors–I’m hoping for one with pineapple, one with berries, one that tastes like salsa and maybe even one with chocolate. We will blend them up, put on some great tunes, and have a Smoothie Dance Party to celebrate the energy we get when we eat and drink whole foods. I can’t wait to see what the kids come up with!