Farmers’ Markets Offer Families with Food Allergies a Bounty of Options
by Elizabeth Kaplan
For kids with allergies, shopping with mom or dad at a traditional grocery store can be very disheartening. The majority of prepared and processed foods available have gluten, soy, dairy, nuts or eggs in them making it difficult to shop. Not only do children feel left out, their parents often feel frustrated too. Weaning your children from processed and prepared foods is one of the 10 Steps to “Going Gluten-Free” and a great way to kick the habit is to concentrate on a diet centered on whole foods by shopping at farmers’ markets.
At a farmers’ market you are presented with nature’s seasonal bounty. There are no flashy cereal boxes or sugary snacks tempting your children, no scary chemical ingredients lacing the foods, and there are limited offerings which makes choosing something easier. You are tempted by the smells and tastes of fresh, local produce and artesian foods. Shopping and eating are just part of the fun. With a little preparation, you can turn any trip to the farmers’ market into an educational experience for your children while exposing them to a world of whole food choices that are free from all the bad stuff.
Here are some ideas for making your trip to farmers’ market an exciting adventure for kids, and give you time to enjoy the surroundings yourself.
Farmers’ Market Kid’s Activities:
1. Develop a list of questions for farmers: Young children often do not understand that some fruits grow on trees, some on vines, and others on bushes. The other day my three year old said, “We should plant a peach bush.” Obviously he’s never seen a peach tree. Talk to your kids about where and how different fruits and vegetables grow. Play a question and answer game as you walk through the market to help them identify how fruits and vegetables grow.
2. Create a menu: As you are strolling around the farmers’ market, pick up a variety of ingredients to make a special family meal. Have your children look at all the possibilities and come up with ideas. See our family’s Farm to Table Sunday Supper Menu. (hyperlink)
3. Give your kids some money to spend: Our kids love to spend money, so we give them each $5 to choose what they’d like to purchase for their snacks and lunches. While enhancing their math skills, they are also gaining confidence in decision making and social interaction. Make sure your child is able to ask if an item is “gluten-free” or free from any other allergies he/she has.
4. Find and purchase an unusual fruit or veggie: Have your kids help you find some produce that you would not normally eat. Buy it, take it home, and have the kids help cook it for dinner. This is a great way to get your family to try a variety of different foods.
5. Get artistic: Place all your beautiful produce in a basket. When you get home give your children paper, colored pencils, watercolors or other art supplies and have them draw a still life of your farmers’ market basket.
6. Engage your children in cooking: You’ve planned the menu, purchased the food, now have your children help make the meal. Children as young as three can help by washing produce, stirring, measuring, fetching items from the pantry, and setting the table. Older kids (10 and up) can chop produce, stir the pot, and help clean up by cleaning the counter and doing the dishes.
Shopping together at the Farmer’s Market is an opportunity to reconnect both with the food you eat, and the people who grow it. The more you can engage your kids in selecting, buying, preparing and cooking real, sustainable, non-processed, allergen-free foods, the better equipped they’ll be to make wise food choices in the future. The fact that you’ll be teaching your children to cook is just icing on the organic gluten-free carrot cake!
Take the fast food free pledge with your family, check out this site developed by a 12 year old~http://www.fastfoodfree.org/