Growing Healthy Kids

Kids Who Garden Eat More Fresh Foods.

By Lynn Coulter

The numbers are downright scary. According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, obesity among American children has almost tripled since 1980. You don’t need a government study to guess that video games, smartphones, and other electronic gadgets are discouraging kids—and the rest of us—from being more active and burning off calories.

But eating habits are also part of the problem. Kids are notorious for preferring “junk foods” to fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. So how do you get a picky eater to go for cucumbers instead of candy bars, or spinach instead of sodas?

Getting kids to garden makes a difference.

“When children grow their own food, they are always more likely to give it a try,” says Julia Parker-Dickerson, who coordinates gardening programs for kids for the National Gardening Association.

“Just as with any activity, it helps to get kids started at an early age to get them hooked (on gardening),” Parker-Dickerson adds. She’s seen children feast on green beans, tomatoes, and eggplants that came from their own gardens, even if they had never tried fresh produce before.

If your kids are already into gardening, but still resist eating the good stuff, Parker-Dickerson urges you to be patient, and give their tastes time to develop. “Just because they might not care for a certain fruit or vegetable now doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy it later.” You can also trying preparing their harvest in a variety of ways, in case they just don’t like raw foods.

“What do video games provide?” Parker-Dickerson asks. “A challenge. A competition. An interesting visual. What do gardens provide? A challenge. A competition. An interesting visual and a food source. Plus much much more.”

Give your kids a chance to garden, she says, and watch them eat more of the fresh,  homegrown foods they raise.

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