Mirroring Healthy Habits – What is Your Grocery Cart Teaching?

Written by: Loralynne Evans

Last week, I walked into our living room just in time to hear Grace yell at our cat, "No, no! Get out of there!"

Oh, boy. That sounded eerily familiar. Having my toddler mimic something I say is adorable…and TERRIFYING! It is like looking at a living mirror and praying that only the good gets reflected. Her entire role in life is to observe, learn and repeat everything we do.

A study of 120 children aged 2 to 6 years found a distinct link between the children’s parents’ food preferences and that of the contents of the children’s pretend shopping carts. Researchers set-up a play grocery store with a total of 133 choices – both healthy and unhealthy.  While most of the kids did “buy” some sugary, salty snacks and desserts, the results pointed to the idea that the health-consciousness of the child’s toy shopping cart mirrored what was typically found on the parents’ grocery list.

GASP! Looks like mommy’s secret stash of Milano cookies is not such a secret!

As parents, how can we model right choices for our children?

  1. Monitor the groceries purchased and make sure there is a balance between healthy and unhealthy items. I recommend having 80% healthy and 20% unhealthy items.
  2. Eat what you want your children to eat. If you want your children to eat green leafy vegetables and fish, then they need to see you doing the same.
  3. Take your children grocery shopping so they can observe your food selections.

“But taking kids grocery shopping can be a challenge,” you might say…especially on a busy weekend! Here are three ideas to make the shopping experience fun and interactive for your kids.

  1. Before going to the store, ask your kids pick a color. The goal is find something in the produce section that is that color. Not only is this a fun game for kids, but it also encourages them to try new fruits and vegetables.
  2. While in the produce section, kids can help put fruits and vegetables into bags and count each item.
  3. Crown your kids as the “List Master”! They can hold the shopping list and cross off items as they are put into the cart. As they learn to read, they can read the items on the list as you go through the store.

Remember…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so in this case make sure that it falls into your grocery basket!

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 9:53 PM