Organic Consumers Association

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Getting Kids to Eat Outside the Box

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page, and our Appetite for a Change page.

Often I go into schools and talk about the importance of eating healthy and what it means to be organic. I have this little exercise I do with kids that challenges them to connect the food source with the finished product (such as milk to a cow, ketchup to tomatoes, French fries to potatoes, etc.). It is always amazing how hard it is for most children to think this way because there is such a disconnect in our current food system between source and purchased products. It’s not necessarily a lack of caring, but it’s a lack of exposure to processes both on the farm and in the factory.

Why kids are more susceptible

Children need nutrients to grow. For the first eight years of a child’s life, their bodies develop at a very fast rate. An assortment of healthy foods that encompasses all nutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals) will allow a child’s body to grow physically and mentally to its fullest ability. Children, with their smaller size, rapid growth rate and speedy metabolisms, are primed to take in a ton of nutrients from the food they eat, but they are also more vulnerable than adults to developmental damage from chemicals.

Research shows that children get four times more exposure to pesticides in their foods than adults, and developing organs are more susceptible to damage from toxins because they absorb them more easily. But current regulations of acceptable pesticide residues allowed in conventional, non-organic foods are based on standards developed for adults, not children.

Removing “processed” from our food choices

A big part of diminishing the amount of harmful chemicals in kids’ diets is limiting processed foods. Ingredients found in processed foods are believed to increase incidences of behavioral disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If we teach our kids to eat processed foods in moderation and mainly eat a variety of foods that come from the earth, we’ve already come a long way in getting our kids to eat healthy.
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