Practicing What I (T)each

by Sarah on December 17, 2010 · 15 comments

So, I talk a lot about the importance of giving kids access to healthy food, and making sure that they can eat fresh fruit, and fresh vegetables, and have a general awareness of good nutrition. I try to model this as a teacher by packing healthy breakfasts and lunches, and allowing the kids to ask questions about what hummus is and why pistachios are green.*

*I have no idea.

And yet, Tuesday afternoon, I found myself with the group of kids I tutor after school, handing out these:
You know, those grocery store bakery gems of super-buttery, soft sugar dough covered in icing that you don’t want to like, but can never resist. [It’s like bakery sheet cake…never worth it, and yet, sometimes it is so hard to stop yourself!]Self, what are you doing? I thought. You are going against everything you say you believe in just because you know this is a surefire way to make kids happy….for the moment at least.

It’s no secret that I love sweets. I do, I promise. I also have amazing willpower, but I love to bake and I love to give goodies away.

I also love to give kids candy. Once, I had a “problem solving party” in my math class where the kids had to solve increasingly difficult problems with the goal of earning increasingly more awesome candy, capping off with Double Stuf Oreos (the ultimate prize!).

But Wednesday evening, as I was preparing to purchase some sort of sweet treat for the small children to celebrate the holidays, I remembered how excited my first graders had been about seeing me eat an orange for a snack….and I wondered….what would happen if I actually DID bring the kids something healthy as their special holiday snack? [As opposed to just talking about how we should do that.]

So I went to the store. And I bought some fruit. Fruit that these apple-and-banana kids* might find exciting.

*A group into which I, myself, fell at one time

Pineapples (on sale for 96 cents apiece!) and a watermelon (not the best, obviously, but still yum)….along with three different types of grapes. [“What are those black things, Ms. Pember?” “Black grapes!” “Wow, they are goooooood.”]
And something most of my kids had never even SEEN, much less eaten:
[Also on sale…88 cents for a container.]

I made a big fruit salad (or “coctel de frutas” as some of my kids called it) and I was seriously shocked at how excited they were about it.Some of the kids I see in groups two or three times a day were asking if they would get to have more when they came back to me. One of my students did a fruit dance in the hallway that looked something like a Conga and involved chanting “fruit, fruit, fruit.”They even went back to their classes and told their teachers, one of whom (also a healthy eater among the staff) gave me a fist pump in excitement later in the day.

I was also glad I had brought extra grapes and oranges, because I almost ran out!

Fully expecting the kids to look at me like a crazy person and ask, “Where’s the candy?” or groan, roll their eyes, and say, “Don’t we get cookies?”, I was delighted and shocked at their reaction. It really is true…kids will eat healthy if you give them the chance to!

Of course, it DOES help that I picked some of the sweetest fruits to give them…I’m not sure the reaction would have been as positive for cucumbers and baby carrots*…but you know, baby steps.

*Although I just read in the December issue of Food Network Magazine that carrot farmers and producers are working on campaign to brand carrots like potato chips. So maybe one day they will be “cool,” and not just in my stomach. [Read the USA Today article about this here.]


In other news, one of my first graders brought me a present yesterday.

Yes, an apple.I’m not sure if this is just because I’m a teacher and that is a thing to do, or if it is because I talk to them so much about delicious fruits and have a reputation as a healthy eater….

Either reason is fine with me. :)