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Helping Kids Read Food Labels

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labels-on-food-for-kidsLabels don't lie, but they sometimes bend the facts. Each food's "nutrition facts" box should be studied before you make a purchase. And your kids should know that nutrition labels are there to inform you what's inside the food you're eating. The agency in charge of nutrition is the USDA (United States Drug Administration). They have switched from the traditional pyramid to a new symbol, a colorful plate called MyPlate. Michelle Obama is a big proponent of this change.

Reading and interpreting food labels isn’t just for grown ups. With today’s growing concerns about childhood nutrition and obesity, it’s never too soon to encourage your children to make smart decisions. Food companies are actually required by law to give you the facts about what you're about to eat. 

Reading Food Labels for Kids

You can teach your kids how to read labels by making it a game. Here's what you need to do:

  • Get green, yellow and red stickers or magic markers
  • Have individual tablets for each of the food categories you’ll be checking.
  • Start with the basics of label information such as portion size (often surprising), calories, fat, carbs, sugar and sodium.
  • Next, explain how ingredients are listed in descending proportion to the total contents. If sugar is one of the top three ingredients, you can be sure there is a lot of sugar in this product. 

Gather together three or four similar products. Teach kids to use their newfound nutrition knowledge to read the labels and rate the products. 

  • Use green for "go." Go ahead and enjoy these tasty foods that are also good for you.
  • Use yellow for "pause." Think about enjoying this food in moderation.
  • Use red for "stop." Don't select this food as an everyday choice. Include more of the green and yellow products for a healthier lifestyle.

Let your children design a healthy menu for a family dinner and take them grocery shopping with you. Older kids may want to help with the food preparation. For a little math practice, have your new nutritionist provide a total breakdown for the entire meal (calories, fat, protein, etc).

Then, the entire family can celebrate success with fresh fruit for a just dessert! For more food, wine, and recipes, check out Sally Bernstein

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