Have you ever purposely not gone shopping because it would mean taking your kids to the grocery store with you? Having to say no to every colorful box you walk by, finding surprise items in your cart at checkout, and dealing with the occasional temper-tantrum in the bread aisle… what’s not to love? Grocery shopping with kids can be challenging and exhausting, but it is so important in helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food that will last throughout their life. So let’s see if we could turn it into a learning experience for them while also making it easier for you.

Getting Started In Nutrition

Taking your kids to the grocery store can be a great chance to educate them on the importance of nutrition and what they are putting into their bodies. Include them in your decisions of what you choose, and give them reasons for this. Bringing them along means they can learn how to read labels, pick out ripe fruit and vegetables, and help you bag at the end! Win-win for everyone! 

Grocery Trip Preparation 

Before you go out, sit down with your child(ren) and make a list of what items you need so they are familiar with the names and know what to look out for. Next, show them a food label from your pantry. Here are three examples of different popular food nutrition labels to practice looking at with your child before going to the grocery store. The main things to concentrate on identifying on the labels are the Ingredient List and the Basic Nutrition Facts. 

This short video is a great resource to watch with your child that explains the importance of making healthy choices by reading nutrition labels. You might even learn something new yourself! Lastly, make sure you have both had a snack before entering the store to prevent making poor nutritional decisions. If you grocery shop hungry, you or your child are more likely to give into temporary food cravings in the store. Giving in is not always a bad thing but should be done in moderation, for both your body and your wallet.

Reading Labels In The Store

As mentioned above, children can learn a lot by reading the nutrition labels on foods you buy and start to get into healthy habits. While in the store, hand them the items you are putting into the cart. Let them examine the label and see if they can remember what to identify. If they are young or you are just getting started, let them know that less ingredients usually indicates a healthier item. This guide from the FDA is a great resource that provides tips and activities to help children get familiar with nutrition facts labels at home and in the supermarket.

Once they are familiar with reading the labels and identifying important ingredients, they can begin to compare different items. Turn this into a game for them! Give your child two different brands of the same item and ask them to choose the healthier option. They are learning, and it keeps them busy! For example, hand them two cereal boxes and have them choose the one that is lower in Added Sugars and higher in Dietary Fiber. 

Choosing Fruits & Veggies

Another thing your child can learn (and help you with) is picking out ripe fruits and vegetables. This can be their special job in the grocery store! It will hold them accountable and get them excited about going home to eat them. 

Start by teaching them basic ways to identify good fruits and vegetables using their senses such as touch, smell, and sight. Here is a great guide for what popular fruits and vegetables should feel, smell, and look like when they are ready to be eaten. 

Allow them the honor of choosing the fruit you are going to take home. If your child is younger, start with easier fruits such as bananas or peaches that they can practice their colors and textures with. Show them that ripe bananas should be more yellow than green, and then let them try to decipher on their own. Ripe peaches will feel fuzzy and a little more squishy rather than hard and smooth. Let them feel a couple to discover the difference. 

If you have older children, challenge them by using more intuition and analysis. Fruits like watermelon and pineapple can be a bit harder to identify when ripe. A watermelon is ripe when it sounds hollow after you knock on it, and a pineapple is ready to be eaten when its leaves on top are loose and easy to pull out. Start small and work your way up! 

What’s Next? 

So, will you be taking your kids to the grocery store the next time around? With a little bit of focus and determination, it can be a beneficial experience for them and you. Jumpstarting their interest in food early on can create good habits for the future.

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