Healthy Habits take Root at the Market

FoodieTots @ the Farmers Market Week continues with some background on why we love the market for teaching healthy habits. This post was originally a guest contribution at Food with Kid Appeal ~ visit Jenna’s blog for more tips to inspire healthy eating with your kids.

This weekend, my son rediscovered his toy shopping cart and insisted on hauling it out for a pre-bedtime grocery shopping trip. He proceeded to entertain us by driving back and forth across the living room and kitchen, visiting the orange juice guy, the ketchup guy, the jam place, and returning his empty milk carton to the door for the milkman to refill. I love that he thinks we have “a guy” for everything!

broccoli kids farmers market

My son has been shopping our weekly farmers market since he was an infant in a baby carrier. At the time, it was the perfect Saturday morning outing when he woke up at the crack of dawn and nothing else was open. At two and a half now, his tastes are still fairly fickle but he generally will at least try a bite of anything that comes from the market. By engaging my son in the shopping experience, and the sensory wonderland that is available at a farmers market rather than a grocery store, I have found that he is genuinely curious and excited about food.

yellow string beansShopping at a farmers market or organic grocer provides you with a much wider array of fruits and vegetables than what are generally available at the big box grocery. From heirloom tomatoes in shades of yellow, green, red and purple to orange cauliflower and purple beans, they provide a rainbow of choices that appeal to kids visually. My son was never a huge fan of green beans, but the day we brought home purple beans from the market, he was enthralled. One day this past fall I asked him to bag some beans, giving him the choice of yellow or green. To my surprise, he chose to take some of both, and when we had them for dinner he proudly held them up to his dad and exclaimed, “I picked these yellow and green beans all myself!”

I also find that while my son may look skeptically at a new item placed on his dinner plate, he is almost guaranteed to sample something handed to him by a vendor at the market. Our neighborhood market’s cheese man is his favorite, no doubt due to the generous sample of cave-aged cheddar he receives each week. My son devours it, exclaiming to everyone in sight that, “Tom the Cheese Guy gave me this!” (He now asks at home, “Are those Tom’s eggs? … is that Tom’s cheese?” before determing whether to taste something. Heaven forbid we run out mid-week!) One of our favorite fruit vendors will sometimes slip him a perfectly toddler-sized Seckel pear, which he enjoys with relish. A while back, I was checking out something new to me, sunchokes. When the farmer handed me one to sample, my son demanded a taste as well. He declared it “too spicy,” but I can guarantee that he never would have been interested in trying it had I tried to slip it onto his plate at home.

As parents know, kids love to feel like they are in control, so empowering them to choose their favorites while you shop is a great way to get them engaged in what they are eating. By shopping at a market or organic grocer where virtually all the options are healthy, it helps reduce the temptation of processed foods and gets them excited about healthy foods. My son will often request fruit or cheese as a snack, which I hope will remain a habit as he gets older. When he’s older, I plan to use the market as an opportunity to teach him about money as well, by giving him his own budget and letting him determine what, and how much, to buy. And of course I will be encouraging him to join me in the kitchen as much as possible to learn how to cook his healthy selections, too.

Shared with Fight Back Friday hosted by Food Renegade — check out the round-upround-up!

one local summer 2009

Calling all farmers market fans! One Local Summer returns in June. If you’re up for the challenge of cooking one all-local meal each week, click the image above to sign up. Here’s a reminder of some of the Chesapeake Bay foodshed meals we enjoyed last year.

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6 Responses to “Healthy Habits take Root at the Market”

  1. Sarah

    Great post! When living in Santa Monica we took advantage of our local Farmer’s Market every week, just a block away! We just moved to the Midwest, but I’m hoping to check out the FM this week in downtown Omaha – the first FM trip for my new baby and a refresher course for my toddler! Can’t wait!

    Best,
    Sarah

  2. FoodRenegade

    Thanks for sharing this post and encouraging others to get out and meet their farmers!

    My own little boy is as convinced as yours that we have a guy for everything. It’s so precious!

    Happy Fight Back Fridays!

    Cheers,
    KristenM
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

  3. Jenny @ NourishedKitchen

    I think it’s charming to see kids connect with their food. At the market my husband and I manage, our son knows every vendor, what they bring to market – including which heirloom varietals they offer! It’s sweet. He’ll tell me he only likes milk from “Sweet Clover the Cow” or that he only likes parmex carrots from a certain farm.

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