Nutrient density is all about understanding value. Why would you prefer gold over granite? A $5 bill over a $1 bill? Blueberries over fruit snacks? Milk over soda?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, nutrient-dense foods and beverages, “…provide vitamins, minerals and other substances that may have positive health effects with relatively few calories.”
On the other hand, “Foods that are low in nutrient density are those that supply calories but have very little health benefit.”
Do you serve any nutrient-dense foods already? Foods like green veggies, sweet potatoes, berries, beans, or nuts? Children have less stomach space, but a high need for nutrients. Don’t panic. Just teach them about nutrient density. Then they will understand why you want them to invest by eating berries instead of fruit snacks.
5-Minute Nutrition Tutorial for Parents and Kids: $5 Foods
Every kid understands that money has value and that more is better. Use this quick lesson to help your kids understand this idea.
What you need:
- Piggy Bank
- $1 Bill
- $5 Bill
Instruct your child that they need to help put some money in the piggy bank. Ask them to pick one of your bills. If they want to put both bills in the bank, say, “You can only pick one.” Most kids will naturally pick the $5. If the concept is fuzzy for your child, teach them the difference in value of the two bills. You can also tell them what you would choose and why.
Next, instruct your child to help you ‘feed’ the piggy bank. Make sure they know that this pig only has room in his stomach to ‘eat’ one of the bills.
Explain that some foods are $5 foods. They are the ones that are best for our bodies to grow and to be healthy. Next explain that the other kinds of foods are $1 foods. They are foods like candy or potato chips. Both bills are the same size, but one has more value. Foods work the same way.
Finally, explain that we want to make sure we always save room for $5 foods.
If you want to continue to use this analogy at home, download this Five dollar food list. You can list your family’s favorite $5 foods and post it on the fridge. It can also be used as the “approved snacks” list for in between meals.
Want to know more about nutrient-dense foods and beverages?