February is “I Love to Read” month and a great time of year to kick-off a new topic for the Adventures in Eating series. For the next several months Adventures in Eating will explore each of the five parts of MyPlate along with a corresponding children’s book.
Linking reading and nutrition is a win-win. Food books help introduce healthy eating to young children as part of their overall day instead of just at meal time. This may help children be more willing to try new foods and as a result, eat a healthier diet. In return, healthy eating helps with brain development which is beneficial for the children’s learning.
As an early childhood educator or parent, you may see food books in the library, stores, or online and wonder if they are good books. The Updated Michigan Team Nutrition Booklist is a helpful resource of when looking for food, nutrition and physical activity books. The list contains over 400 books aimed at children in kindergarten to second grade, but most of the books are also appropriate for preschool aged children.
Books on the list are divided into three categories:
- Easily identifiable, positive nutrition, food, and physical activity message(s) that focus on increasing children’s knowledge about nutrition and improving their eating and/or physical activity habits.
- Positive nutrition, food, and physical activity messages and themes to help children gain awareness about, and increased exposure to, a variety of nutrition foods and physical activity behaviors.
- Positive nutrition, food, and physical activity underlying themes but no specific message.
Books are listed alphabetically, but also by 41 themes such as ABC’s, gardening, counting, farm to table, dental health, and many more. To help you determine if the book will fit your need, the list contains a brief summary of every book. As you can see, this is a great resource to help connect healthy eating to other themes you may be using in the classroom.
The Two Bite Club by the USDA is good book for introducing MyPlate to young children. Parents or caregivers can read the book to children and encourage them to try foods from each food group by trying just two bites, just like the characters in the story. The back of the book contains a MyPlate coloring page, a blank certificate for the Two Bite Club, fun activity pages for kids, and Tips for Growing Healthy Eaters. Both English and Spanish versions are available in PDF. If your school or preschool participates in Team Nutrition (school lunch), you can get up to 25 free copies of this book!
Mary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources. Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals. You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/