For the past three weeks, I have been chronicling my work with Christine Zanchi and Fran Nostrame to help change the eating habits of their twin 4-year-old boys. One of the family’s assignments this week is to label the pantry and fridge items with MyPlate colors and letters. This will help the family become more familiar with the different food groups that might appear on a plate. We turned it into a scavenger hunt to make it fun for kids and tested it out with Sharon Sprague from ChopChop and her two boys. Here’s what she said happened:
“We first looked at MyPlate and talked about each food group. My 8-year-old had no problems identifying which food belongs in each category. My 5-year-old was not as confident, so it was important that we talk about each category and what types of food belonged in each. Then the fun part – I broke out the dot stickers and sent them on their mission: to hunt for foods and dot them up their stickers.
The boys had fun raiding the pantry and fridge, covering everything with stickers. My 5-year-old needed some help figuring out which foods belonged to which category. The oldest paused at the Soy Milk and asked if it was Dairy or Protein. This stumped us for a minute and we decided it was a protein. Before long, all of our fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and proteins were labeled with colorful stickers. The next morning, my 5-year-old happily announced he was choosing a Grain for breakfast!”
Kids can have fun exploring how to make healthy food choices with this simple activity. Try this in your house and let us know how it goes!
MyPlate Scavenger Hunt
The goal of the hunt is to have fun and teach kids the different categories of foods that need to be part of their daily intake and for them to understand what each one is.
- Print out MyPlate.
- Gather red, blue, purple, orange and blue dot stickers (try an office-supply store), or simply get white stickers and have the kids fill in the colors.
- On the red stickers, put an F (fruit), on blue a D (dairy), on orange a G (grain), on green a V (vegetable) and on the purple a P (protein). This is optional, but can help your child learn what the categories are.
- Talk about the different foods you can think of that fit into each category. Flip through ChopChop or another magazine and look at pictures of food.
- If the kids are very young, you can start by putting 10 ingredients on the table and help them understand which category each fits into.
- Give each child 5 stickers in each color.
- Send them into the pantry, kitchen shelves or refrigerator to find 5 food items that fit into each category.
- When they return with their items, talk about the results. Good conversation starters might include: Where did you find the most vegetables/the most dairy? Why do you think that is? Does that tell you anything about them? What category had the most colors?
- Adventurous? Challenge your child to make a snack using various combinations of the categories. Ideas include:
- Vegetable + fruit + protein = celery stuffed with peanut or almond butter and dotted with raisins
- Protein + dairy + vegetable = scrambled eggs with cheese and broccoli
- Grain + dairy = whole wheat crackers with cheese
- Fruit + dairy = applesauce with yogurt
- Dairy + fruit + grains = yogurt with fruit and granola
- Vegetable + protein + dairy = chicken and cheddar wrapped in a romaine leaf
- Protein + vegetables = hummus with carrots and celery
This is part of "The Picky Eater Project" series on New York Times Motherlode Blog. Check it out every Wednesday as we document what happens.