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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Around the Block Practical Parent Tips: Talking Nutrition in Different Places

 
Around the Block Parent Sitelet
 

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Talking Nutrition in Different Places

You can help your child learn about nutrition and establish healthful dietary habits in many everyday situations. Remind him or her to use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages when choosing foods. Check out these tips for talking to your child about using the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages:

 

In The Home 

Parents need to take advantage of opportunities to discuss nutrition with their kids. Busy schedules mean that sometimes families can't eat together. But there are plenty of times to talk about healthy eating habits at home with your child, even away from the dinner table. You can help your children get their food facts first any time that it's convenient to talk about nutrition. Mealtimes are certainly great opportunities, but don't limit yourself to discussing nutrition just at the table. Check out these tips for helping your children to Spot The Block at various times in the home:

  • Make the Shopping List Together
    Have your child Spot The Block in the pantry and refrigerator by using the Nutrition Facts Label on the food packages. Children can add items to the shopping list that have more nutrients to get more of and fewer nutrients to get less of.
  • Guess the Serving Size
    When your children are choosing snacks, challenge them to measure out what they think is one serving. Then have them measure out what the actual serving size is according to the Nutrition Facts Label on the food package. Discuss any difference in amounts so they can see how many servings they're really eating, and remind them to always check out the serving size.
  • Prepare Individual Servings of Snacks
    Have your child check the Nutrition Facts Label on the food packages of favorite snacks and measure out single servings. Keep individual servings in resealable plastic bags or containers.
  • Conduct "Measurement Experiments" at Dinner Time
    Keep measuring cups or spoons at the dinner table. Have family members guess how much one serving of each food is, and then each person can measure out an actual serving. Family members can then see any differences between their guesses and the actual serving size. Before measuring, families can also try to guess how many servings are on individual plates, then measure to check.
  • Have a Snack Food Scavenger Hunt
    Each family member finds a favorite snack food in the kitchen. Have your child lead everyone in finding which food is highest or lowest in a particular nutrient. For example, compare the number of calories in one serving of each food. Find the nutritional "winner" with the lowest calories. Use different nutrients on different days: on another day, Spot The Block for foods high in nutrients to get more of and find those "winners." Remind your child to choose nutrients wisely when deciding on snacks.
  • Spot The Block to Stump Your Friends
    When your children have friends over, challenge them to Spot The Block when they want a snack. Encourage them to see who can find the most interesting fact on a Nutrition Facts Label and try to stump the others. They can use questions such as, "How big is one serving of these chips?" Have them choose the snacks lowest in nutrients to get less of.

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In the Lunchroom 

It's a challenge to make sure your child regularly chooses healthful foods to eat. That's why Spot The Block wants to empower tweens to make informed dietary choices on their own, even when they're not at home or with their parents. Encourage your child to check out the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages in a place they eat frequently: the school cafeteria.

Even though you're not with your child during lunchtime at school, you can help him or her to Spot The Block when preparing or buying lunch. Encourage your child to use the Nutrition Facts Label to make healthful dietary choices for the important midday meal. Here are some helpful tips for getting your child involved in lunchtime nutrition:

  • Take the Great Lunchbox Challenge
    Challenge your child to pack a 600 calorie lunch. Have your child Spot The Block on sandwich ingredients and snacks to put together a healthy lunch. Next, your child can measure out single servings of snacks into plastic bags or containers and pack the individual servings in the lunch bag. Consider pudding made with fat-free milk or fruit for the sweet. If your child's usual sandwich ingredients surpass the calorie limit, try a spread like mustard instead of mayonnaise. When packing a lunch, remind your child to check out the serving size14 and consider the calories15! Remember to check your child's individual caloric needs which may be more or less than 600 calories.
  • Spot The Block in the Cafeteria Line
    Remind your child to check out the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages in the cafeteria. Encourage your child to choose foods that are high in nutrients to get more of and low nutrients to get less of. He or she can Spot The Block with milk products, snacks and many other cafeteria items. Reiterate that the Nutrition Facts Label can help your child to choose nutrients wisely.
  • Leave a Note
    Do you pack your child's lunch? If so, leave a friendly note reminding him or her to Spot The Block on the foods you've packed. Point out one healthy choice, such as whole-grain bread. Don't forget to write why you chose it.

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In the Supermarket

Challenge your child to Spot The Block on different items at the supermarket. This is a great opportunity to compare different foods and use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages! A supermarket trip is filled with chances for kids to pick out foods that are high in nutrients to get more of and low nutrients to get less of. Have your child Spot The Block in certain supermarket aisles:

  • Choose the Juice or Sports Drink with the Least Sugar and the Most Vitamin C
    Tweens can use the Nutrition Facts Label to limit their sugar intake. Ask your child to find the juices and sports drinks with the lowest amount of sugar and to see which has the highest % DV of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important nutrient to get more of.
  • Select Canned Fruit with the Fewest Grams of Sugar
    Fruit is an important part of your tween's daily diet. Have your child check out the Nutrition Facts Label on different canned fruit to find the one with the lowest amount of sugar.
  • Find Vegetables with the Highest Percentage of Vitamin A
    Vegetables can be a good source of vitamin A — a nutrient to get more of. Ask your child to choose a vegetable. Once the choice is made, encourage your child to Spot The Block on different styles of that vegetable — such as frozen, canned, types with or without sauce, etc. Ask your child to find the one with the lowest fat content and the highest amount of vitamin A. Remind your child that vitamin A is a nutrient to get more of. Ask to see the nutrition information for fresh fruits and vegetables. Visit Nutrition Information for Raw Fruits, Vegetables, and Fish and Fruits and Veggies More Mattersdisclaimer icon for more information.
  • Choose the Cereal with the Fewest Grams of Sugar
    Ask your child to find a cereal that is low in sugar and high in fiber. Have her compare that cereal to one you currently have at home. Remind your tween to choose nutrients wisely.
  • Check Out the Nutrition Facts Label on Nuts and Dried Fruits
    Nuts and dried fruits can make great snacks because they often contain nutrients to get more of. However, too many servings can add up to a lot of calories. Have your child check out the serving size with peanut butter, nuts and dried fruit. Remember that serving size is important.
  • Find the Frozen Pizza with the Lowest Total Fat
    Frozen pizza can be a source of nutrients to get more of, such as calcium, iron and even vitamin C and A in vegetable toppings and sauce. Ask your child to Spot The Block on frozen pizzas to see which has lower fat and sodium, two nutrients to get less of — and of these, choose the one that is highest in nutrients to get more of, such as calcium and iron.
  • Continue the Dialogue After Leaving the Store
    Make the car ride home and the unpacking of groceries into teachable moments. Ask your child if he learned anything interesting while reading labels. Use their answers as a springboard for discussing how easy it is to use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages. You and your child can check out labels while putting away groceries. Have your child choose which food was the best purchase that day and use the Nutrition Facts Label on the food package to explain why.

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In Fast-Food Restaurants

Have your child check out the nutrition information at fast food restaurants. Many fast-food restaurants offer a number of types and sizes of foods, so encourage your child to use this information to make informed choices when ordering. It's also an opportunity to use Spot The Block's three key messages.

  • Check out the Nutrition Information
    Have your child ask for nutrition information when eating out. Obtaining the nutritional information about the restaurant's food is the first step towards making informed choices about what to order.
  • Compare Different Foods and Meal Sizes
    Have your child check out the nutrition information to see the differences in nutrients between various items. Compare things like grilled chicken vs. fried chicken, a baked potato vs. French fries, or small vs. large portions. Remember that a super-sized item can mean doubling or tripling the calories of a single serving because the serving size is larger. Remind your child to check out the serving size before ordering super-sized foods!
  • Substitute One Item
    Ask your child to compare different food items using the nutrition information and see which foods are higher in nutrients to get more of and lower in nutrients to get less of. Challenge your child to replace one high-fat or high-calorie item with one that is lower calories or fat.
  • Spot The Block Before You Go
    Your child can check out the nutrition information on some restaurants' Web sites before going there to eat. If you're concerned about finding nutrition information at the restaurant, this is a great chance for you and your child to discover nutrition facts about the foods you like to order. Ask them to decide what they're going to order before you leave for the restaurant. Remind them to consider the calories and choose nutrients wisely while selecting their foods.

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