Telling stories to help kids make better choices around food and activity

Joey Fedoruk and family

Between bad diets and too much time glued to their screens, many of today’s kids face a crisis in obesity. And while parents try our best to model healthy eating habits and active living , it isn’t an easy battle. How do we insure we give our kids the tools they need to make the best decisions on their own?

Enter Munch, a children’s picture book that encourages young kids to make healthy choices — and has kids responding to it’s healthy messages. Written by mom of three, Joey Fedoruk — and her husband, Stephen — for four to seven year olds, the book has been getting great feedback. We chatted with Fedoruk about the book and the issues her family has around food that inspired it..

One of the illustrated pages from Munch.

Tell us about the book.

The premise of the story is a little boy who doesn’t like healthy food eats some carrots and gets magical rabbit powers, then he eats a banana and gets transformed into a monkey, and so on. The boy learns to love healthier food choices by the end. The parent feedback we’ve had is their kids are saying, “If I eat this what will I turn into now?” That was our goal, to have kids thinking about food more. We’ve had lots of very positive feedback. It’s a simple book, so it isn’t going to deep into nutrition but it’s designed to help kids make better choices and feel good about what they’re eating.

What inspired you to write it?

We’d had the book in the works for a long time. Our eldest did a doodle many years ago that my husband turned into a character and we’d built a little story around. When she was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes at 10, it threw a big curveball into the day-to-day as far as meal planning and nutrition was concerned. It became all consuming — 100 percent of what your life is about, especially the first couple of months — it was pretty hard core. Then she was diagnosed as celiac about nine months later, which means there’s a lot focus on food in our home. When food takes over a kid’s life it can be hard for them, so the book was a fun way to start exploring healthier choices. As a parent sometimes you feel like you’re teaching all the time, but I think kids absorb things better if they read them in a story.

Healthy eating is a stress point for many families.

Absolutely! Food is generally stressful for parents, especially when you’re trying to make better choices for fussy kids. It’s like, “Do I just have you eating or do I put up a fight over what you’re eating?” Our hope is when they’re little they’ll choose this instead of this. And that’s all you can hope for, that when you give them tools they’ll start making those decisions themselves.

When kids are little you have more control, but when they get bigger even if you pack them lunch you can’t control what they eat at school. They could walk out the door and toss that healthy lunch you made them in the bin. All you can hope is if you give them the right tools and knowledge they’ll make good choices on their own.

Why did you target the book to that age group?

I think that between four and seven kids are starting to develop habits as they struggle for independence. They want to make their own choices. My four year old daughter insists on packing her own stuff for preschool, and when I say, “You can have this, this, or this,” she feels she has a choice.

Taking her kids grocery shopping helps Joey get them interested in healthy eating.

What are the food issues that you go through at home now?

We don’t have food struggles in our house these days. Maybe that’s just because we have easy kids. We do things that help us avoid the common struggles though. Our kids come to the grocery store. My four year old looks through recipe books and picks things off Pinterest. She wants to cook and has always been hands-on in the kitchen. I feel if kids are involved in buying and preparing food they are more likely to eat it. I know it can be so easy to not take the kids grocery shopping, but sometimes I really like to take my kids. My daughter will pick up weird and strange things she’s never had, things I would never have thought about introducing to my kids. These are small things you can do to get kids interested in healthy eating from a young age. And it’ll be rewarding for everyone as they get older if you do.

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