Discover how one mom turned dinnertime into a fun challenge with a simple board game and a powerful message about filling your plate with colorful vegetables.
When Jennifer Lee noticed that her kids had started avoiding veggies, she decided to turn a parental obstacle into a great opportunity. The result? A game to teach kids how to eat right and think smart about nutrition by rewarding them with points for eating a colorful and balanced meal. The idea for Crunch a Color™ started small and simple, but in a matter of months, it grew to become a fully-fledged game—winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards for one of the best children’s products of 2011. Jennifer explains how she created the game and offers tips on simple ways to get your kids to fill their plate with healthy color.
WHAT IS YOUR HEALTHY-EATING PHILOSOPHY?
Life is busy, so I need an easy system for keeping meals healthy and fast. I always encourage my kids to eat a colorful, balanced meal with the goal of 3 colors + 1 protein. It’s an easy formula for everyone to remember. Whenever possible, I choose organic veggies grown from our garden or a local farmer. Making the connection between seeds and food at the dinner table is a powerful way to encourage kids to make healthy choices. Having grown up in Canada, I know how tough it is to find farm fresh veggies in the dead of winter—so I keep a stash of healthy frozen veggies in my freezer. Frozen peas, corn, and edamame are great veggies to work into stir-frys to add easy and healthy color to your meals.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO CREATE CRUNCH A COLOR™?
Like 99% of parents, I struggled to get my kids to eat their veggies. When my daughter was 2 she ate everything. By the time she was 5 her plate was white. Not a vegetable in sight. Desperate for a solution, I turned to the one thing I knew how to do—make it fun. It turns out that what worked for my family works for others too!
DID YOU ALWAYS ENVISION IT AS A GAME?
I didn’t set out to create a product—I just needed a way to make mealtime fun and healthy for my family. Crunch a Color started with index cards by color. The prize was something active, healthy and fun—like a trip to the beach or a bike ride to the park. The game evolved organically around our family dinner table.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO BE HEALTHY?
Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Here are three easy ways I encourage my kids to be healthy:
Eat Dinner Together: I try to commit to a regular dinnertime where we all eat together. I start the meal with a question (one that doesn't require yes or no as an answer!). In a time when kids are bombarded with facts, and drilled to deliver the "right answer" on tests at school, it's a welcome change to simply enjoy the journey of exploring an idea.
Fill Your Cart with Color: When we grocery shop, I challenge my kids to put five colors in the cart. It’s amazing to see the change in perspective as they race around the produce aisle looking for colorful foods to add. Of the five colors, I encourage them to choose one new food to try each week. Posing this challenge to kids puts them in control of making nutritious choices for themselves. They don’t have to love it, but it’s great for them to try it because research suggests it can take up to ten times of trying a new food before a child likes it.
Let Kids Cook: When kids are involved in preparing healthy meals, they are much more likely to eat healthy meals! I assembled a no-fail list of fast, healthy foods that my kids can prepare and cook in a matter of minutes—guaranteed to be home runs at our family table.
HAVE YOU HEARD MANY SUCCESS STORIES ABOUT THE GAME?
Yes! For each family the reason is unique; some kids like collecting the veggie friends, others love racking up points, parents love the easy “system”—but at its core Crunch a Color works because it makes mealtime fun and it empowers kids to make healthy choices for themselves. In a playful way, kids are rewarded for eating a balanced meal and trying new foods while learning about meal composition, portion control, and table manners. The game also encourages families to cook, share and enjoy healthy foods together—an important part of how we’ll win the fight against childhood obesity.
Check out all the great resources on the Crunch a Color website, including the Crunch a Color™ Food Chart, which provides a handy list of wholesome foods by color. To give back to the community, a portion of sale profits support Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, FoodCorps, and Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project.
Have you played Crunch a Color with your kids? How do you encourage healthy eating at the dinner table?