During our kids yoga classes at Yogiños, we talk about making good, or "OHMazing" choices for ourselves, others and the earth. Often this includes discussing food because making healthy choices for our whole bodies on and off the mat is definitely part of yoga. For simplification, I invite kids to choose and eat foods that are “close to the earth.”
One day a group of 3-6 year olds were snacking on popcorn and I asked, what’s healthier: popcorn or potato chips? A 4 year old excitedly raised his hand and with great passion and the inability to wait another second he exclaimed, “POTATOES! Because they grow IN the Earth and popcorn comes from corn stalks which grow ABOVE the Earth.”
(Ahhhhh the things kids say..... and they call this work!?!?)
Clearly he had taken my suggestion of “eating close to the Earth” to a literal extreme, yet the offering is a positive guideline to help form how and why we choose certain foods.
Integrative health expert, Andrew Weil, MD, advises that people of all ages seek and crave sugar for several reasons. As children, we are often rewarded with sweets like candy and cookies. This sets us up for a lifetime of connecting good behavior with sugary processed foods. Sugar also increases serotonin—a natural chemical our bodies produce—which helps us feel good and relax. This is why we often turn to sweets when we feel stressed or anxious.
While we all want to feel good, more relaxed, and less stressed, we can make the more OHMazing choice and select sweets that comes from the earth: fruit.
When I talk to youth about choosing fruit, I call it “candy from the Earth,” beautiful, colorful, natural sweets. While we should practice moderation of our intake of these sweets, too, fruit is a better choice than processed sweets and snacks for many reasons. Weil recommends berries, cherries, apples, and pears as the best fruit choices as they have a low glycemic index.
Low glycemic index is a carbohydrate ranking that means a food will not spike our blood sugar levels as much as other foods. High glycemic index foods, like candy and processed sweets, are associated with obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood fats, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Why and how is fruit OHMazing?
Ourselves: Whole fruit is good for our bodies because the sugar is natural and paired with fiber. The fiber slows down how our bodies absorb sugar and helps us digest all of our foods more efficiently.
Others: Choosing candy from the earth is good for others because it supports our farmers, especially when we choose locally grown fruits.
Earth: Selecting fruit over processed foods is good for the environment because there is no extra processing or energy spent to make it. Fruit also has no waste! Even if we do not eat all of it, the core, peels, and rinds can be composted. Composting allows natural leftovers to return to feed the earth. It's also a lot of fun and community-building to start and maintain a garden.
A fun way to teach this idea is to discuss which is the more OHMazing choice and why:
- orange soda, orange juice or whole oranges
- apple juice, apple sauce, whole apples
- potato chips (fried and baked), french fries, baked potatoes
Talk about other groupings and ask children to come up with their own groups of three to compare and contrast. I find that kids are never too young to start talking about nutrition. As my yoga teacher, Christina Sell, once asked, don’t we deserve to only consume the very best?