“FOOD COP”: A GAME TO MAKE HEALTHY EATING FUN FOR KIDS
Kids are like the rest of us: we all like to think we’re in charge. If not all the time, at least once in a while.
One day a week, have your kids take turns acting as “food cop” at the dinner table. Let the chosen one have fun with it. Find a cap with a badge at a costume shop and let him wear it at the table. Pin a star to her shirt. Give him a whistle. (Or not. Personally, I’d rather not have a whistle interrupt my dining experience!)
Remind your kids that good policemen are polite and respectful, that they are examples for the community, and that their job is to serve and protect.
In this case, as Food Cop, your child’s job is to make sure everyone at the table follows the latest recommendations about food choice and portions. Let him know he’ll be leading by example.
Download and print out several copies of the mini-poster below–one for each member of the family. You might want to get them laminated so they can be re-used each week. The poster shows the latest USDA recommendations for food intake: make half your plate fruits and vegetables (a bit more veggies than fruit), an equal portion of grains to the veggies, and a portion of protein slightly smaller than a quarter of the plate. Add a glass of milk to round out the meal. To make your kids’ fruit and vegetable intake easier, provide at least two of each, along with a grain and a protein source, so your kids have real choices.
After the table is set, have your Food Cop place one mini-poster at the top of each person’s plate for reference. He gets to serve himself first–starting with fruits and veggies, of course! The other diners, including parents, look to the Food Cop’s plate as an example of how to fill their own plates when the food is passed around, so he has to be careful to get it right. (And what fun to gently remind Mom she needs to add a few more veggies to her plate!)
If your Food Cop doesn’t divvy up his plate according to the recommendations (and also make a good attempt at eating everything), he forfeits his turn on the next go-round. But keep your fingers crossed that having the chance to be the boss for this one dinner will make him feel so proud of himself for helping protect his family’s health that he’ll scarf that good food down.
A caveat–tell your kids this is a game to be played only when you’re eating at home with family. Your great-aunt Lily or worse, your boss, might not appreciate a kid nagging her about eating her vegetables!
Playing Food Cop isn’t for everyone, but most kids love being trusted with important responsibilities. And what could be more important than protecting their family’s health by helping make sure they eat well?
Yours for law and order at the dining table,
Barbara Jean the Story Queen
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a chef. I’m not even a mom. What I know about healthy food and healthy eating I’ve learned by reading and doing, just like you.
What I am is a children’s book author. A Story Queen! My area of expertise is FUN. In the last dozen years, I’ve written a number of entertaining, award-winning picture books–about monsters, cats, Disney princesses–and veggies, of all things.
I’m big on imagination. Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli encourages kids (the way my dad encouraged my siblings and me) to think of broccoli as crunchy, munchy, fun-to-eat trees. Once Upon a Parsnip is a fairytale rematch between Little Red Riding Hood (a vegetarian) and the Big Bad Wolf (NOT a vegetarian). Scary fun!
On the surface, neither of my veggie books is really about healthy eating–they’re just plain fun. But the fun is subversive: both books introduce and normalize the idea of eating healthy, fresh-from-the-garden vegetables. (Never underestimate the power of fun to get your kids to try something new!)
My goal in these pages is to find and share fun ways to introduce fresh fruits and vegetables to children and to normalize healthy foods and healthy eating in their experience. My means is to expose them–through you, their parents and caregivers–to food-friendly books, videos, downloadable and printable posters and coloring pages, hands-on activities and kid-friendly recipes. Anything that equates healthy food and FUN!
I’m here for you–to help you make healthy eating feel as natural to your children as breathing.
Because healthy food and healthy fun make healthy kids. And that’s something all of us can get behind.
Barbara Jean Hicks, a.k.a. “The Story Queen”
To purchase signed, personalized copies of my picture books, visit the “Books” page on my website. To contact me about my well regarded young author presentations for schools, or for other enquiries, send an email from the “Contact” page at barbarajeanhicks.com. I look forward to hearing from you!