how to teach your kids to read food labels
Our oldest, Patrick, is studying the digestive system in school. One of the last school projects is to create a sample fast food meal, complete a nutrient analysis (simple at this stage – looking at the food labels) and evaluate it for someone his age (he is shy of 11).
I asked him, “What meal are you creating?”
He answers, “I decided to choose McDonald’s cheeseburger, large fries and milkshake.”
What an order! You see, Patrick’s McDonald’s choice (with us) is the cheeseburger happy meal with white (sometimes chocolate) milk, apples and fries.
I asked, “Do you know how to find the nutrition information for this meal?”
He replied, “I have looked at the McDonald’s website.” (Good job!)
Patrick then tells me how his teacher told them how many calories at their age they should eat. I asked him, “How will you identify if the meal is healthy?”
He said, “I am not sure.”
It was time for another food label chat. This year, Patrick has started reading food labels since I told him I was not packing his daily snack that school permits. I have shared with him a list of better choices for snacks, which should be between 100-200 calories. Thus, Patrick has used his division skills in knowing 1 Pringle has 10 calories.
I started pulling out food items for our family session of reading food labels. We looked at lower and higher fat items and ones full of sugar (Swedish Fish).
- Look for “Nutrition Facts” – this means you are in the right spot!
- What is the serving size? Will you be eating that much?
- How many calories is for that serving size?
- What is the total fat?
Rule of thumb: No more than 3 grams of fat for every 100 calories. (Goal: no more than 30% of total calories coming from fat) We worked through several items identifying high and low fat items. But, we talked that fat is necessary in our diets – balancing the amount is key. We talked about energy in and energy out (why we need to be active)
We also learned – most candy does not have fat. Our second son asked, “This is healthy?!” I said, “No…” Again, we talked about energy in and energy out aka, balance. Next step, reading the ingredient list! In Swedish fish, the first 3 ingredients are some type of sugar. We learned that there are other words for “sugar”. And, Patrick told us that the first ingredients listed are the most present in that food. (Hurray – he is right!)
What a great discussion after supper! It reinforced why we don’t include candy, chips and sugar-sweetened beverages in our daily diets- but, when we do, we watch our portions! Also, I asked our oldest to bring home this project. I would like to take a look at it before he hands it in!