This post was originally published on June 6, 2017 and updated on April 15, 2020.
Kids tend to eat all day long. Besides three meals a day, those smaller bellies demand mid-morning snacks, afternoon munchies and before-bed nibbles. Clever moms can use these opportunities as way to teach their kids to love the planet. Demonstrating your concern for the environment through your everyday actions – such as avoiding paper plates and serving foods containing eco-friendly Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil – is much more effective than lecturing. Here are six ways you can use snacking to pass on an appreciation for Mother Nature.
1. Eat outside. Snacking under a tree, on a beach or simply on your front step is a great way to help kids connect with nature. So skip the table and dine outdoors as often as possible. Bonus: Cleaning up spills and crumbs just got a whole lot easier.
2. Serve eco-friendly foods. Perennial crops – those which come back every year – produce some of the earth-friendliest foods because these plants demand fewer resources than many other crops. Tell kids their love of juicy grapes, crunchy apples and tart rhubarb helps Mother Earth. And, teach them to look for other perennially produced ingredients on food labels, such as garlic, Malaysian palm oil, nuts and berries.
3. Grow your own snacks. Plant a garden with kid-approved vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and seedless, thin-skinned cucumbers. Concepts learned by gardening, such as plants’ need for water and sunlight, may help kids develop responsibility and respect for our planet.
4. Use reusable snack dishes. Families can produce a lot of waste if they consistently use paper plates and individually packaged snacks. A better bet is to use reusable dishes and containers whenever possible. Consider fabric pouches for dry snacks such as crackers. This blog explains how you can make one in just 15 minutes.
5. Teach kids about food origins. Visit nearby farms and orchards to show kids which foods are produced locally. Then explain that food is produced all over the world, such as tropically grown bananas and pineapples. Share stories about family farmers who practice sustainable farming, such as these Malaysian oil palm smallholders.
6. Drink smoothies. According the USDA, food waste is estimated at between 30 and 40 percent of the American food supply. This food waste is often sent to landfills where it quickly generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Help protect the planet by not overbuying at the grocery store and always having a plan for leftovers. One idea: Keep a container in the freezer for fruits that are past their prime. Bananas that are turning brown and peaches getting soft are ideal for smoothies.
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