Seasonal shopping: Take the kids along!

(Editor's note: Judy Lyden has worked with very young children for over thirty years. She's been a preschool teacher for over twenty. She co-owns the Garden School, an early childhood academic center, with Edith St. Louis. )

OK, so where are my peaches? This giant pumpkin is looking at me coming at him like I have a knife and fork in my hands.

"I'm looking for the peaches," I say to the pumpkin gently, and the woman next to me directs me over to the next isle.

The season is changing; you can tell by what foods are displayed as you first enter the green grocery at the supermarket. My wonderful peaches and nectarines have been moved to the specialty isles, and Mr. Big Face pumpkin and fifty kinds of apples now deck the front halls. But that's OK because apples and pumpkins are fun too.

Children should see this change, and parents should make them aware of seasonal foods.

I thought about this while I noticed recently how many people were pushing what I call cement carts - carts filled with food that acts like cement in your system. Children's food filled the cart yet there was not a fresh item - no apples, no carrots, no pumpkins, and that's a shame - especially for kids. Kids need to experience seasonal foods and get away from canned, crushed, pulverized, nearly not foods like canned spaghetti which has zip nutritional value.

If shopping is the last thing you want to do, then of course it's a bitter moment, and the same things are routinely tossed into the bin, taken home and consumed so that another painful trip to the store is insured, and that's sad because kids love the store.

Make shopping an adventure and always take the kids. Shopping is the first part of the nutrition circle, and the nutrition circle as part of the health circle especially for children. It's a battle fought for the child in our care.

Here's how it works: If you buy food with little or no nutritional value, you will in all probability serve foods to your family that have no nutritional value, and consequently, the children will either be heavier than they should be, or constantly sick, tired, and/or have difficulties learning.

Here's a meal I heard about recently: fried chicken, grits, scalloped potatoes, rice, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and corn.  The creator of this meal was proud of her efforts. No wonder America is overweight.

This meal does not contribute to a healthy system. It contributes to painful constipation, high blood sugar which leads to type two diabetes - a threatening uncomfortable disease - tooth decay, lethargy, and high cholesterol.

Re-evaluate meal plans that contain too much ready food, too much starch and nothing green or fresh. Go ahead and fry your chicken; use olive oil and serve the corn but nix the other fatty foods for that meal. Add a salad or some apple slices.

Making a menu does not have to take hours to do. It can be done right on site at the grocery store. This is what I do to make shopping for forty easy. I go to the store and buy the seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables that I think my school children or family will enjoy. I try to buy something new every week.

Then I go to the butchery and look at the meat by package rather than cost by pound. I buy the leanest meat possible, whole chickens, fish, and whatever there is we've never eaten.  I make my menu at the meat counter.

Then I go up and down the isles to collect things that will go with what I've chosen in the green grocery and the butchery. When children are with me, I let them choose.

I try to shop this way two times a week. Buying in bulk or for a week a week or more sets a pattern of store and save food that usually means packaged, canned or frozen foods, and these are not the highest quality for the children I love.

Shopping is the first stage of nutrition, and it should always be a positive and an adventure.