There are many potential advantages to teaching children how to read food labels, including that it helps to encourage portion control and will help them find the information they need to make healthier food choices. Reading labels can provide reading practice, as well as a science lesson if you take the time to research what some of the unknown ingredients are. It is also provides a math lesson, especially when they are given the opportunity to measure out their food.
Fresh Healthy Vending – a San Diego-based vending machine company that offers 100-percent juices, fresh vegetables, fruits, smoothies, and yogurts – has compiled a list of helpful tips for teaching kids how to read food labels:
**Start at home by getting out a couple of their favorite things, such as cereal, along with a measuring cup. Start by teaching them how they can determine what a serving size is, and letting them measure out one serving.
**Once they understand serving sizes, move on to showing them things like calories, fat, sugar, fiber, and cholesterol on the label. Explain why it is important to know what quantity of these things constitutes a serving, and what amount is considered high. For example, if they look at a can of soda and see that it has 40 grams of sugar, they will learn that this is high; if they look at a serving of Cheerios, and see that it has one gram of sugar, they will see that this is low.
**Try having them read the ingredients list. The longer-labeled products are often less natural and have a lot of artificial ingredients, making them more unhealthy. Remind children that things like fresh fruits and vegetables don’t usually have labels but are usually the most natural and healthiest options around.
**Once they have understood the above steps, do some label comparisons so they can determine which choice is the healthiest option.
**Be patient with kids as they learn how to read and understand labels. It will take time and practice, but after a while they will understand it and the information they are gaining.