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Home ec lessons you can teach at home

Thursday, June 3, 2010; GZ15

Whether or not a school district offers nutrition classes, parents can teach their kids at home.

Teachers Karen Bryant and Lori Molnar of Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon offer tips to get started.

Shop together

1. Let your kids help plan healthful meals, then take them with you to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. Teach them to read food labels and compare items to find the most-healthful choices. Point out that foods found around the perimeter of the store generally tend to be fresh, while those in the middle are more processed. Take a trip to a farmers market, where kids can sample fresh produce and meet the people who grew it.

Plant a pepper

2. Or plant another vegetable or fruit, in a plot or pot. Kids who help raise a vegetable are more likely to want to eat it. Fun plants to grow, and eat, include radishes, cherry tomatoes and peas.

Eat as a family

3.Getting everyone together for a meal can be challenging, but it's well worth the effort. Research shows that kids who regularly eat family meals get better grades and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, among other benefits.

Energy in equals energy out

4.Maintaining a healthful weight means balancing the energy you consume in food calories with the calories you burn through exercise.

It's a simple concept. But it requires you to check food labels, pay attention to nutrition data on restaurant menus or consult sources such as the USDA's Calorie Counter for calorie content information. There's a physical activity calorie calculator at http://www.acefitness.org/calculators. Kids don't have to be fanatic about it, though; a few weeks of monitoring will give them a sense of how to maintain balance.

Cook it up

5. Let your children help cook in age-appropriate ways. Little kids can wash and tear lettuce; older children can crack eggs, and teens can help with just about anything. Obviously, adult supervision is required when knives or fire are involved. But you want to be there anyway to share in the fun.

-- J.L.H.

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