(Excerpted from eatlocalgrown.com)
1. Develop healthy emotional eating habits.
It’s true that people often turn to food when they’re stressed out, lonely, sad, anxious, or bored.
But emotional eating can be linked to positive feelings, too. It’s no accident that McDonald’s named their kids deal a Happy Meal!
You can beat the fast food marketing guru’s at their own game. Simply swap out the fast food and replace it with a fun day at the Farmers Market! Do this on a regular basis and your kids will start to equate healthy real food with those happy family days at the market.
2. Connect kids with “real food”
There is often a huge disconnect between many Americans and their food. For the most part, we’ve stopped questioning where our food comes from, how it is raised and if it is good for our health.
We can break that cycle with our kids and the Farmers Market provides a great opportunity to further the food connection discussion. It’s much more effective when you practice what you preach. Buying from local sustainable farmers reinforces the message.
3. Talk with real farmers
A lot of the farmers we meet are very proud of the work they do and they’re very happy to talk about it. With a little coaching (if necessary) your kids can ask some great questions, like- Why are you a farmer? What’s your favorite things to grow? What’s the hardest thing to grow? The easiest? Do you use chemicals or pesticides? Why, or why not?
The next time you go to the market your kids will remember the farmers. It’s great to make new friends, especially when they’re doing something as important as growing your food.
4. Let them buy their own food
Depending on your kids age(s), give them a few bucks to buy some of their own food to bring home. This in itself is a great learning experience. Will they think long and hard about what to buy? Or will they buy the first thing they see? Learning to shop wisely and consider all the options is a great skill to have.
And let’s be honest, if we really want to teach our kids about the value of real food, they should know how to shop for it!
5. Cook the food you bought
Getting kids involved in cooking is great. Basic cooking skills open so many choices for them later in life and alleviate them of the need to buy ready made, highly processed meals. But it’s not always easy.
Cooking the food you just bought, or the food THEY just bought if you followed the step above, makes this a whole lot easier. It’s the next logical step- “We bought these veggies from the nice farmer, now we get to cook them!”
6. Introduce new foods
Face it, some kids are just picky eaters. The 3 steps above may have a profound effect on their willingness to even TRY something new, right? Let’s go through this- We met the farmer, learned about how they grew this, we bought it, we took it home and now we cooked it. It’s just natural to want to taste it!
7. Learn about nutrition
For older kids, the Farmers Market provides an opportunity to learn about nutrition and why real foods are so important to maintain a healthy body. If your kids compete in sports, you can teach them why nutrients will make them better athletes. Even if they don’t play sports they can understand that real food is packed with vitamins and minerals that make them stronger, smarter and healthier.
8. Get away from the screens
TV screens, computer screens, iPad screens, phone screens- Arghhhh! Yes, I know you are reading this on a screen (unless somebody printed it for you). Screens are awesome but they have their time and place. Food has a huge impact on childhood obesity but at the same time most kids are sedentary too many hours per day.
The Farmers Market is a great excuse to bust away from the TV, or Xbox or Facebook, Instagram, – whatever, and get some fresh air.
9. Family bonding
A trip to the Farmers Market provides a great way to spend time together as a family. It’s easy to enjoy each others company when you’re doing something healthy. With little kids you can play fun games like finding food that’s different colors or shapes. With older kids try a scavenger hunt and offer a family prize if the goal is hit.
It may take a little work (and a bribe or two) but the market can be a fun family outing. Who knows, you may end up creating one of those fond memories that your kids can carry and pass on to their kids. How great would that be!
10. Teach the importance of community
The growing number of farmers markets in the United States gives us hope. They serve not only as a way for people to purchase local food but also as a chance for them to connect with others within their communities. Buying local promotes a sense of pride in you home town.
Farmers markets allow you to teach your kids that they can make a difference by voting with their dollars. When you shop at a large grocery store chain, a fraction of your dollars stay local. Supporting local farmers keeps the money in your community where it can be reinvested for the good of the town.