ASK THE NUTRITIONIST
What you teach your children today can greatly aff ect the world of tomorrow
Talking to Kids About GMOs What you teach kids today can greatly af fect their choices tomorrow.
Q : Earth Day is coming up, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk with my kids about GMOs and pesticides. I’m just not sure exactly how to do that. Can you give me some pointers on how to discuss this topic with my children so they can understand why I want us all to transition to more non- GMO and organic food? — Mary E., Charleston, S. C.
a:It’s great that you want to broach this topic with your kids. Children can’t possibly make good choices unless they learn about genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) and pesticides— the major food issues of their time. And children are far smarter than many adults give them credit for.
Exactly how you want to bring up the topic might vary depending on your kids’ ages, but here are some general guidelines from my book Going Against GMOs.
A Simple Beginning Conversation
A beginning conversation with a young child might go something like this:
“There have been changes in some common foods that weren’t like that when I was your age. Some plants that we eat today are made by scientists instead of nature.”
Your child might ask: How and why do scientists make those plants?
“Scientists put diff erent kinds of genes into corn, so the corn doesn’t die when you spray chemicals on it, or the corn might contain chemicals to kill bugs inside of it. It keeps the insects away and companies can use weedkillers on it, but it isn’t a good idea for humans or animals to eat food that contains chemicals that kill insects and weeds. That’s why we want to do our best to avoid foods that have been produced in this way.
“Foods that are produced in this new way are called genetically modifi ed, abbreviated as GMO. They’re more like fake foods instead of real foods that nature provides us.”
You can also explain that not all genetically modifi ed foods have bug killers in them or weed killers on them. Other types of GMOs are potatoes or apples that don’t turn brown after slicing.
It’s probably best not to make the fi rst conversation too long. Explain the subject in bits and pieces, so kids can digest
the information. Let them research it on their own by reading kid- friendly information on the Internet. They may come back to you with questions, and you can gradually give them more information.
Making Changes as a Family
Making changes in long- standing eating habits always works best when kids are involved and they understand the reasons why changes are being made. Ask your children if they’d be willing to come to the grocery store with you and help you choose organic fruits and vegetables and fi nd packages of food products that have a label with a butterfl y on it ( the Non- GMO Project Verifi ed symbol), or preferably a label with a circle that says USDA Organic. This is a great way to teach kids what to look for when they become food shoppers. Children often get engaged in hunting down healthier foods and tend to think of it as a fun game.
At home, bring in healthier substitutes and alternatives to GMO foods you used to use. Generally speaking, that means avoiding processed foods and eating more whole foods ( fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds).
Also, keep in mind that there are organic alternatives to virtually every kind of food. If your family doesn’t feel like it can give up certain foods— tacos, for example— make sure to buy organic ingredients to make them. That’s the easy way to avoid GMOs and pesticides. Using organic ingredients doesn’t have to be expensive either: Develop an eye for bargains, and stock up on organic foods you use in recipes when they’re on sale.
When your children are away from home, it’s much more diffi cult to control what they eat. But you can do your best to help them eat non- GMO by buying non- GMO and organic snacks, and having those foods at home ready for your kids to take at a moment’s notice.
Finally, always pack your children’s lunches. Unfortunately, GMOs are often found among the ingredients of school-prepared lunches..
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Smith is an internationally known journalist and holistic nutritionist who has more than 20 years of clinical nutrition experience and specializes in using food as medicine. She is the cutting- edge author of Going Against GMOs, Going Against the Grain, and Gluten Free Throughout the Year, and the coauthor of
Syndrome X. To learn about her books, long- distance consultations, nutrition coaching programs, or speaking, visit her websites: melissadianesmith. com againstthegrainnutrition. com.