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The Supermarket as Classroom

You can turn a trip to the grocery store into a fun outing that teaches children valuable lessons.

Walking the aisles, you can talk about making wholesome food choices, show how ads drive purchases, and expose your child to new fruits and vegetables.

With your help, even preschoolers can start to make healthy food decisions

The earlier you start, the better. Young adults who shop for and cook meals are more likely to have nutritious diets, says a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Jump-start healthy habits with fun supermarket activities. You could ask your toddler to find a red fruit, or ask a child at age 5 to count out bananas. Give older children a math challenge, such as finding the food with the most dietary fiber.

Talk to your child about marketing by asking why there's a picture of an animated character on a package. This is part of a child's development, which includes critical thinking about food and why it's promoted.

Keep the conversation light so your adventure is fun. Here are some tips:

  • Don't expect to do your routine shopping. Save that for another trip.

  • Go at a slow time, such as mid-morning on a weekday, to avoid crowds.

  • Choose a time when your children aren't hungry or tired.

  • Let children choose some foods. They may be more eager to try the produce they select.

  • Decide in advance what to say when children ask for a food you don't want them to have. Banning a food often makes kids want it more. Options include buying the smallest size snack available and dividing it among your children, or finding a similar, more wholesome alternative (low-fat frozen yogurt instead of high-fat ice cream, for instance).