Kids and their families can reap the benefits of gardening.
We all know that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for a growing child. With spring here, children have an opportunity to reclaim the outdoors.
Gardening is an activity that can motivate children to get some fresh air and stay healthy. And you can tell your kids that the best part of gardening is that they can eat what they grow.
Although gardening requires a bit of planning, it’s an ideal opportunity for families to work together toward an edible common goal. Gardening can benefit children of all ages, equipping them with critical skills they can use in other areas of their lives, such as:
- It gets motor skills running. Planting seeds, scooping dirt and watering plants all help to improve motor skills, which can help to improve concentration and learning capabilities.
- It teaches responsibility. Learning how to care for the plants properly can be a great life lesson. Helping your children create a to do list will give them a better understanding of their important role as caretakers.
- It inspires self-confidence. Gardening allows kids to engage in an activity they may have thought was only for adults. Growing a plant takes time and patience, but a successful harvest can boost a child’s sense of pride and accomplishment.
Aside from keeping you and your family fit, gardening has several other advantages, including cutting down on what you spend on produce. Best of all, the vegetables you grow can provide your family with all the minerals and vitamins they need to stay healthy:
Green beans and string beans are a staple of many vegetable gardens because they are so easy to grow and add nutrients to the soil rather than taking them away. Beans provide protein, fiber, folate, iron, potassium and magnesium while containing little or no total fat, trans-fat, sodium or cholesterol.
Tomatoes are extremely popular because they are nutrient dense, containing vitamins A, C and E, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids and potassium. They’re also chock full of lycopene, which can strengthen bones and promotes cardiovascular health.
Broccoli is a family favorite because it is low in sodium and calories – at about 31 calories per serving. It is proven to help digestion and also contains anti-inflammatory properties. Broccoli is best eaten when it’s fresh– so it’s worth making space in your garden to grow it.
Finally, I recommend all families include zucchini in their garden because it is a good source of fiber, magnesium, folate, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and Thiamin. It is also high in antioxidants that can help stabilize blood glucose, support your vision and promote weight loss. Both zucchini and eggplant, which helps manage cholesterol and contains potassium, vitamin C, vitamin and antioxidants, grow well on the East Coast.
Whether you grow enough to feed your neighborhood or tend to a few pots on the windowsill, feeling the dirt between your fingers and watching plants grow can do wonders for your physical and mental health, as well as your wallet.
Diane May, MPH, MS, CDN, RD, CSOWM is a registered dietitian with Scarsdale Medical Group. To make an appointment, call (914) 723-8100.