How I’m Fooducating My Kids to Make Healthy Choices

This is a guest post by Stacy Whitman.

“Mom, can we get Cheetos?”

“Mom, can we get Frosted Flakes?”


I’d taken my then-6-year-old son’s to the grocery store to gather ingredients for a recipe to cook together. Concerned about his growing demands for uber-processed “food” like Doritos and Go-GURT, I thought having him help shop and prepare a “real” meal would be a smart move. But as we navigated the store, all I was getting was more requests for more junk.

We’d just entered the land of Froot Loops when I had an idea. I whipped out my smartphone, pulled up my Fooducate app, and instructed my young sugar fiend to start scanning. After seeing their scores, he quickly put the sugary cereals back on the shelf. After about 15 minutes (fortunately, we weren’t in a rush!), he found an organic, low-sugar (1 gram per serving), 100-percent whole-grain option that earned an A-minus. Done! He was satisfied, as was I.

Raising healthy kids may not be part of the American dream, but it should be. With most life-threatening chronic diseases (including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many cancers) linked to poor eating habits, there may be no greater threat to our national prosperity than our crappy diets. In this day and age, with junk food being hawked on every corner, putting healthy food on the table simply isn’t enough. We must educate our kids about what and how to eat.

Fooducate can be used as an educational tool in the school setting as well. Teachers can have students scan a variety of products and divide them into groups based on their letter grade. Then, discuss the reasons why the different products are rated higher or lower. It’s the kind of real-world nutrition lesson that will spark kids’ interest and teach them to think about the food that they’re eating.

Whenever I go shopping with my children, I am always sure to bring Fooducate along. They love scanning the bar codes, and I love coming home with a cart full of real food—no arguments!

Stacy Whitman is the real food lovin’ mom behind the blog School Bites: One Mom’s Crusade for Better Nourished Kids at School. She invites you to join the food conversation on her Facebook page or Twitter.


  • Catherine

    Great idea! I love this. I am just about to embark on getting my kids to help cook meals in a quest to get them eating a bigger variety of foods and hadn’t thought to do this.

  • ddsprncs

    We do the same thing! I often have other customers ask me about the app and download it right then and there.

  • Bean Sprouts Café

    Same here! They can each pick one item that gets a B or above (B-, too bad). It has turned into a fun challenge!

  • DJ Waldow

    AWESOME IDEA. Stealing it!

  • James Cooper

    You can do even better if you then discuss the reasons behind some of Fooducate’s ratings, some of which are based on really bad science.

  • Koobazaur

    Hmm while fooducate is a great tool I use myself, I’m not sure the example given here is one we should follow. It seems you may be reinforcing your kids reliance on someone else telling them what is good for them than doing their own research thanks to the “ease” of the app. Now it may be just dearth of info and perhaps your kids looked at the actual nutrition info than just the fooducate score, but growing up thinking “my iPhone told me this is healthy so I can eat it” really that much better than media or the government? Yes the choices your kids make will be healthier this way, no question, but is it just another excuse to not think for yourself? And what’s “healthy” for one person may not be for another based on lifestyle and genetics, so a single score isn’t sufficient to make good choices.

    • School Bites

      You bring up a great point, and I agree that kids shouldn’t rely on the app alone to make their decisions about food. As much as possible, I talk to my children about the resaons why certain foods score higher than others. I’ve found that the Fooducate app serves as a great leaping off point for conversations about what foods are best to eat and why.

  • benjamincgessel

    You know, kids should ENJOY shopping with their mom (or dad, yeah, dads can go grocery shopping too! :) ). Ideally though, it should go something along the following lines… The mom/parents make a grocery list with the kids that sticks within a certain budget, whether more strict or more liberal, or somewhere in between. Produce should be the stuff most frequently bought, then breakfast stuff like cereal, milk, eggs, etc., then everything else. On that list, there should be more boxes/spaces for the more important food groups, like vegetables (including onions, mushrooms, and herbs, as well as the mandatory leafy greens), fruits, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and whole grains/potatoes, and fewer boxes/spaces for fish, dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat. Only a few juices and treats (chocolate, ice cream, etc.) should be allowed per shopping trip (I understand that Christmas, Easter and Halloween are a bit different, sure…) Kids should pick some stuff, and the parents should pick some stuff, but the parents have the right to have their kids choose something else, if what they choose is not very healthy. I think a 50/50 split is a very good idea for more “easy going” parents, etc., so long as there are sensible ground rules for the kids, but 66% parent/34% kids, and 75% parent/25% kids may be more sensible, even 85%/15% or 90%/10% depending on the health habits and dispositions of different kids/families.

    Then, at the grocery store, stick to the list. If there are any impulse buys, make sure they are healthy and cheap. Allow your kids the same number of impulse buys as you get, with the same rules-must be cheap, must be healthy. Stick to the perimeter of the store, only venturing into the middle for things like herbs and spices, cereal, and staple foods like beans, rice, pasta, etc. Avoid the candy aisle. :) Temptation central, oy… Its the colors, mainly, but anything sugary sweet and especially colorful would ALWAYS catch my eye when I was little. I was especially entranced by cereals like Trix, Fruit Loops, and Lucky Charms, candy like jellybeans, gumdrops, big lollipops, Starburst and other highly colorful fruit candies, and colorful cakes and cupcakes, but I just LOVED candy when I was little, though I rarely was allowed to have such things… When I did, I LOVED it! :) But I knew it was a treat, and that it wasn’t good for me… I have good parents. :)

    It is wise to spend a bit of time talking about nutrition at home, as well as get a very sound understanding about what each child really wants to eat. The better the habits that kids have about eating healthy, the better life will be for them down the road. :)