Food Thoughts with Sheryl Estrada

In my studies of communication, I have learned everything has a process of communication either directly, indirectly or even abstractly. Food preparation has its own method of communication. For example, when a person prepares a dish with skill and care, it is communicated to the person who eats it through a delicious intensity of flavors and textures.

Like all forms of communication, our understanding of food begins when we are kids. Parents have the job of molding their child's perspective on food, such as fostering healthy eating habits. But in our multimedia communication age, that task can be difficult. I've never met a kid whose favorite food is broccoli. (Though, if there is one out there, I'd like to give him or her a high-five.) For the majority of kids, seeing broccoli on their dinner plate isn't appealing. After being bombarded with said to be "kid friendly" ultra sweet or fatty foods in commercials on a daily basis, it's hard for a kid not to want that.  Broccoli on the plate is equally as unappealing to teens who just logged off their social network page, which had pop-up ads with incentives to purchase fast food.

What parents need to do is be just as savvy and strategic in getting their kids to want to eat healthy.

Here are four tips to help your kids make healthy food choices:

1) Food Preparation Participation

The best way to promote your product is involvement. Would you purchase a car without a test drive? Kids and teens need to be shown healthy foods can taste good in order to be on board. Follow Chef Samuelsson's lead. His involvement in events  like The Second Annual Youth Health Forum at the Harlem YMCA, and  Target's Fun & Fit Family Day prove kids like cooking. Buy them an apron. Or better yet, have your child decorate their own apron. For teens, have them choose a recipe and give the opportunity to prepare it. You can be the sous-chef.

2) Repetition and Persistence

Haven't you seen a product promoted to children and teens reinvent itself over the years? Your child might have declared he or she doesn't like certain fruits and vegetables. Don't give up. I truly believe there's something for everyone. You can make a game out of it, and try out vegetables alphabetically. One week you can try fruits and vegetables that begin with the letter "A." Go through the alphabet all the way to "Z" for zucchini!

3) Lead by example

Parents need to be committed to incorporating healthy food into their own diet. There's no room for, "Do as I say, not as I do."

4) Make the process seem fun and natural

Kids, especially teens, are indeed intuitive. If they feel forced to eat fruit and vegetables they already declared they don't like, you might have more of a challenge on your hands.

Once you've gotten your children interested in healthy eating, you can seek out different opportunities to keep the interest alive.

Let's Move!, a campaign initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama to combat child obesity, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is offering a competition asking school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents and interested community members to create healthy recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country.

A team must consist of a chef, a school nutrition professional, at least one student currently enrolled in grades 4 to 12, and at least one parent or community member.

Applications are being accepted now through Dec. 30. For more details or to apply, visit www.recipesforkidschallenge.com