It’s Summertime! In North Carolina, Summer means an abundance of amazing tomatoes, berries, and peaches and a great time to teach children nutrition education! Instead of teaching kids about nutrients and what they “should” or “shouldn’t eat,” talk to children about where food comes from, what’s in season, and maybe even head out to a farmer’s market or “U Pick” farm, if possible. THIS is nutrition education!
Summertime Nutrition Education: What’s in Season?
When teaching children about nutrition, a developmentally appropriate topic is learning about what produce is in season. Many of us live in a food environment where we can buy most produce year-round and may not understand what it means for a food item to be “in season.” Summer is a great time to teach children what is in season, what that means, and maybe visit a farm or roadside stand to learn more.
Here in North Carolina, “Got to Be NC” Agriculture created this chart showing what months certain foods are in season in this state. You may be able to find a similar chart for where you live through your Cooperative Extension or state-supported agriculture. Or, Check out the Seasonal Food Guide App. This app has compiled information from state databases.
What’s in season for you? In NC, July and August offers an abundance and variety of produce. We’ve pulled together our recipes of our summertime in-season produce.
Hands-On Nutrition Education
Children learn best from modeling and real-life experiences. Rather than telling our children “fruits and vegetables are good for you,” we can teach them this concept by offering them fruits and vegetables, modeling eating a variety of foods, and teaching them about produce. Learning where food comes from and, maybe even seeing our food growing, can be fabulous education and exposure for children. Not everyone has access to a farm, check out my post The Berry’s Journey: Learning Where Food Comes From. It includes a list of ideas on how to teach children about where their food comes from. Also, in case you missed it, I made a video lesson for upper elementary-aged students about the Edible Parts of Plants. This lesson plan can be shared with educators in your life and includes handouts and downloads.
Learning Through Experience
Nutrition education isn’t just for the classroom. Visiting u-pick farms and roadside stands and foraging can be fabulous ways to learn about what’s in season and how produce grows, and expose children to fruits and vegetables. An added benefit is you are also supporting your local economy! Exposure without pressure is the best way to help children expand what they eat! Picking fruits and vegetables can be a great way for children to be exposed without the pressure of eating what they pick. However, not everyone can visit a u-pick farm. In my post, Picky Eating If Pressure Doesn’t Work, What Does? I discuss many ideas, including picking fruits and vegetables, to help support your child in expanding their food choices.
We hope you find simple ways to enjoy the abundance of the season! And remember – it’s not your job to “get” your children to eat certain foods. Just keep offering!