March is National Nutrition Month—a time to focus on the importance of making informed food choices, developing sound eating and physical activity habits.
“One of our key components in YouthQuest is nutrition and nutrition education,” says Nefertari Jones, program director for YouthQuest. “It is important to teach students to eat healthy at a young age in order for them to keep those habits into adulthood.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of children worldwide between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old suffer from at least one micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrients are vital to development, disease prevention and wellbeing, and most micronutrients—including iron, iodine and zinc—are not produced in the body and must be derived from your diet.
Each day, YouthQuest helps promote nutrition by providing students with a healthy snack and dinner during program. And according to Erin Wenk, a FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member working in Flint, there are several ways for families to help introduce healthy food into their children’s diets at home. This includes:
- Taking a hands-on approach and allowing students to help grow or prepare the healthy foods they are going to eat. Students are more likely to try something new if they play a role in preparing it.
- Trying new foods in small samples. Introducing food to adolescents can be overwhelming. By telling your students they can take a “no thank you” bite, you give them the opportunity to make a decision about the food before getting a whole serving.
- Introduce new foods with a bridging flavor – something your child already likes such as citrus on a new salad or a spicy flavor with new vegetables. Giving the students a flavor they already like can make new foods more palatable.
- Making healthy food available. If you already know your student likes a healthy food, make sure it’s easily available for a snack.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult but starting students early can help them form habits that last a lifetime, says Wenk.
YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Image credit: silviarita/Pixabay