The summer is upon us, and many of the area’s farmers markets are in full swing. Shopping at local farmers markets is good for our health, good for our local farmers and good for the environment, but they also can have many benefits for kids, including fostering healthy eating habits.
Raising a child who enjoys steamed vegetables as much as a pizza doesn’t happen overnight. But the energy, excitement and bustle of people make farmers markets a great way to make healthy food fun and set the tone for meals later.
Here are six reasons why visits to farmers markets can encourage a love of healthy eating for kids:
Help foster adventurous eating
Farmers markets help with even the pickiest of eaters. When you attend a farmers market, kids are exposed to many different types of fruits and vegetables that they may not see in their local grocery store. This means kids can see and try different types of healthy foods they do not normally eat.
Make cooking part of the family culture. Asking for a child’s input while shopping for your meals is a great way to make them feel more included in mealtime. It is also a great way to lead by example and help children embrace a culture of wellness.
Ease anxiety with trying new foods
Filling your child’s plate for the first time with something unfamiliar can cause some anxiety in children. Farmers markets are the perfect setting for sampling unique foods in a low-stress environment. You can then prepare a meal or snack from what caught their eye.
Reduce unhealthy temptations
Instead of taking your child to the grocery store with center aisles filled with chips, cookies and other processed foods, head to a farmers market, where there are no candy bars at the checkout counter. A National Institutes of Health study showed that families who shopped at farmers markets ate three additional servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Make healthy eating a game
Challenge yourself and your child to try at least one new food item a week or month. Make it a scavenger hunt for certain fruits and vegetables or a different color or shape food. It’s a great way to show you prioritize healthy options over processed foods while making it seem like it was your child’s choice.
Introduce gardening and learning about nutrition
Encouraging kids to say hello to the local farmers can help create a sense of community and an interest in nutritional learning. Ask the local farmers how they like to cook the vegetables or take inspiration by planting your own vegetable garden to teach your children about where their food comes from and healthy food shopping.
Don’t hesitate to check out your local farmers markets this weekend. For a list of the closest ones to you, check out visitmaryland.com. You can also visit civicworks.com to see community-supported agriculture options for additional produce choices.
Gwen Kokes is the food and farm manager at Civic Works’ Real Food Farm in Baltimore.