7 Innovative Ways To Teach Your Children Not To Waste Food

It's dinner time and your child refuses to eat up all the food on his plate. Fret not, we give you some clever ideas to make meal times a happy experience, for you and your child.

By Shiny Lizia M  • 9 min read

7 Innovative Ways To Teach Your Children Not To Waste Food

Do you know that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year? This is as per the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The FAO defines food waste as “Food which is fit for consumption being discarded, usually at retail and consumer levels.” Fruits and vegetables (especially roots and tubers) have the highest wastage rates of food. And this happens even though, according to the FAO, 821 million people in the world go hungry every day. 

Hence, it is essential that all of us become more mindful about the food we cook and eat at home. Reducing food wastage at the household level is the need of the hour, today.

How to teach your child about food wastage

Does your little tyke lick only the creamy layer of 'sandwich' biscuits and dump the rest in the bin? Or empty his unfinished lunch box in the classroom trash can, in a bid to escape your scolding? Next time you see your child fuss and refuse to finish the food on his plate, do pause and talk to him about it. At the same time, become more aware about what constitutes food wastage. Why do you need to do so? Well, because, it is probably your habit to make your little one eat peeled and scooped-out apple wedges instead of the whole fruit. That is why cutting down on food wastage requires a change in mindset on your part too. 

So, here are 7 ingenious ways to teach your child not to waste food:

1. Do menu planning, together

This is an interesting activity for the entire family. During weekends, you can have a family discussion to design the weekly menu. Doing so will help you understand your child’s food choices, and you can even explain the disadvantages of bad food choices. Why, you could even suggest healthier alternatives. Now, this becomes a brainstorming session about mindful eating and since your child has already agreed to the menu, there will be no leftover mess waiting. A win-win situation!

2. Shop for food, as a family

Ask your little one to check the refrigerator before going to the store together. Involve him in writing up the grocery shopping list. Choose food items that can be used for several different dishes, to reduce wastage. While buying groceries, teach your child to read food labels and check the information given (shelf-life, ingredients, so on). Doing so will make your child understand exactly what goes into the meals made at home. Put him in charge of the shopping list and together, shop only for what you need. This way, you get to buy, store and use foods that the entire family will relish and more important, finish.

3. Storing and labelling

Give your child the task of bottling, storing and labelling all the shopped items. This will not only lighten your work but will also keep her engaged. Make her prepare a checklist of the stored items — who knows, your little one could turn out to be a pro in inventory management! This means you get a clear idea of you already have in your cupboards and what to avoid buying in future. You also get to clear out items that have been stored for a long time. 

4. Time in the kitchen

Encourage your child to become a junior chef in your kitchen! Let him assist you in rustling up innovative dishes. After all, your child is definitely going to eat what he himself has cooked! Teach him all about measurements and proportions in cooking. Once, your child understands portion sizes, encourage him to eat only what he needs. Better still, let him serve himself. Also, ensure that you use the right cookware and kitchen utensils in order to get the correct portion sizes. 

5. Recess before meals

Yes! You heard that right. There have been many studies on how children eat healthier if there is a break or activity before a meal. A 2014 research paper published in Preventive Medicine suggests that school children eat more fruit and vegetables if there is a recess before lunch. Researchers noted that students consumed more fruits and vegetables (up by 54 percent) and that more children took at least one serving of fruit and vegetables with their meal. When there is a sports activity before a meal, it is noticed that children drink more milk or water, waste less food and are better behaved on the playground and in the classroom. So, inculcate this practice at home, right away!

6. Handling food waste and leftovers

You could initiate a healthy competition in the family to see who wastes less food. Reward the winner. This way, you're not only going to produce less trash but also, encourage mindful eating as a family. And that too, through play. On a regular basis, you could also check the trash or garbage bin to find out what foods are being wasted most often. This could help you figure out what to buy  or not to, during your monthly grocery shopping. You could, of course, create a new dish with the leftovers, with your child's active participation! But do remember that your leftovers could even become a meal for someone else. If, after a party, there are large amounts of uneaten food items at home, you could even donate it to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that will re-distribute the food to the needy.You could also give leftovers to the domestic help, security guard or, share the excess with your neighbour. 

7. Kitchen garden

At least a quarter of the food we buy goes to the trash either because of spoilage or, because we often forget there is a particular item on our kitchen shelves! Also, on a daily basis, there is a huge amount of food waste that goes into the trash. Why not do composting and start your own kitchen garden? This will have tremendous benefits for the entire family. Growing your own greens means you eat healthier, and you also breathe healthier air. So, watch videos on home composting with your child and use kitchen waste wisely. The compost thus prepared will, in turn, enrich your kitchen garden. 

It is time to become more responsible about food — both as parents, and as civic-minded citizens of your city. Teach your child why it is important to eat up everything on her plate. After all, when she wastes food, it adds to the trash dumped in landfills every day. Hence, you need to deal with food waste, as a family. 

About the author:

Written by Shiny Lizia M on 15 October 2018.

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