Would you like your young child(ren) to learn more about food and nutrition? Some of the best ways to elicit interest in healthy eating is by doing food-related things together such as cooking, eating family meals, packing lunches and preparing snacks.
Something else that can come in handy, believe it or not, is technology — particularly apps for mobile devices that help kids learn about food groups, nutrition facts, and cooking methods, and healthy food choices through fun games and tools.
In a recent review done for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the following five apps were identified as fun, useful, kid-friendly tools for learning about the value of food as fuel for the body.
This game helps kids recognize healthy foods, and the value of healthy eating habits. Kids play the part of Healthy Heroes and attempt to save the city of Yogopolis from Hungry Monsters. By fending off the Hungry Monsters with fruits and vegetables, children can learn what foods fit into these nutrition-packed food groups.
This app helps kids understand that food provides energy through calories, and compares the number of calories eaten with the activity required to use that energy. Examples of activities include dancing and running, and sedentary pursuits such as reading and doing homework. This app also provides healthy alternatives for high-calorie snacks and meals.
A component of food preparation that isn’t often introduced to young people is the importance of food safety. This app does it very well by teaching food safety within the context of creating a safe picnic. Kids learn the importance of washing their hands before handling food, using a thermometer to monitor food temperatures, maintaining clean preparation surfaces, and keeping perishable foods at safe temperatures.
If you’re interested in your child learning about the sugar, salt, and fat content of certain foods, look no further than this fun app that invites kids to “smash” various foods and beverages such as pizza and soda. Kids also learn about the recommended daily limits for these items.
An app for children as young as two years old, Veggie Circus Farm helps children recognize all different types of vegetables and their nutrition benefits, and increases literacy skills at the same time.
Admittedly I’m not much of an app person, but I enjoyed giving these a try, and they certainly offer benefits in reinforcing messages about healthy eating. Of course, there’s nothing like the “real deal” when it comes to learning about food and nutrition, and their influence on health and well-being. Preparing a snack with your child and then enjoying it together is, as they say, “priceless.”
Anne Marie Kuchera, our Kids Plus Nutrition Consultant, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dietitian.