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If you want your children to eat smart, one of the most important skills you can teach is how to read food labels, says Kathy Walsten, nutrition educator with Kansas State University Research and Extension.

Child's Finger on Nutrional Label

How to teach your child to read labels

Teaching your children to read food labels will teach them more than just how many calories come in a serving.

Labels encourage portion control

For example, you can let a child prepare his or her preferred- size serving of pretzels, cereal, cookies or fruit juice. Then you can show the child where serving size is listed on the food container's label.

"After that, you should get out the measuring cups, if necessary. You can measure the amount in the serving size shown on the label and compare that with the child's usual serving," Walsten says. This teaches your kids about the importance of portion control - an aid in preventing them from becoming overweight.

Labels can help with math skills

Older children can also test their math skills with label information. An interesting place to start may be the grams of sugar in a label-specified serving. Four grams equal one teaspoon.

"For example, if a cereal serving has 12 grams of sugar, divide that by four. Your answer will be 3 teaspoons or 1 tablespoon of sugar PER serving - which measuring spoons can illustrate," Walsten says.

Labels teach healthy eating

The nutrition educator advises also discussing why the child needs one or more nutrients, along with the calories. You can explain to your child that important nutrients for kids include protein for growth, calcium for strong bones and teeth, iron for healthy blood, vitamin A for good eyes, and vitamin C to help heal cuts and scrapes.

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