Modeling Healthy Eating Habits by Angela Santomero
~:: by Angela Santomero of Angela’s Clues ::~
Healthy eating is a secondary curriculum in all of my shows. I feel such a responsibility with my storylines and characters. To be honest, whenever I look at the child’s menu at a restaurant and see no change from when I was a child, I believe that I should do my part to model healthier alternatives.
Whenever possible we show our characters having family meals and making good choices with food. On one occasion, I was writing a “waiting” episode (“When you wait you can play, sing or imagine anything), where Daniel and his family go out to eat at the Neighborhood café. Daniel learns that he has to wait for his food after ordering at a restaurant. This came directly from my four year old’s first experience – “Wait..What?!”
Since the Tiger Family was dining at a restaurant, I got to choose what my four year old little Daniel Tiger would order to eat. So, what did Daniel order? Pizza? Burger? Chicken fingers?
Daniel ordered grilled chicken and broccoli.
Then I got THE notes.“This is not what real kids eat. We should show him eating like a normal four year old.”
First of all, Daniel is a tiger.
Second of all, I have millions of children and parents every day learning and (hopefully) modeling what our characters do. We carefully test our episodes to maximize learning of our life lessons curriculum. If making a good food choice is not a major life lesson, then I don’t know what is. This exchange also inspired a pair of episodes specifically on healthy food choices. Our “Try New Foods” episodes revolve around the strategy: “Try a new food it might taste goooood!”
In our first story, we show Daniel and the kids in the classroom garden as they find, harvest and taste different veggies. Daniel likes squirty tomatoes, while Katerina falls in love with bell peppers after being hesitant to try any.
In our second story, we have Miss Elaina join our Tiger family for dinner where they are having veggie spaghetti (pasta with heaps of veggies) and banana smash (recipe below!). Miss Elaina isn’t a fan of the veggie spaghetti, but knows that it’s very important to try new foods. After all, it might taste gooood! Kids will not always like the healthy food options we put in front of them. However, I was once told that we need to offer a new food 7 times before we admit defeat. It is also important to me, that whether we are writing an episode specifically about food or having little moments in episodes, we try our hardest to help parents by showcasing the healthy options.
I love hearing that kids want to go to college like Steve after watching Blue’s Clues or hear kids say that they love oatmeal and blueberries because of Daniel. We started doing our part in 1996 (remember Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper’s memorable song, “Healthy snacks, healthy snacks, we like to eat, yum, healthy snacks!”) and I have been trying to do my part on the healthy brigade ever since!
Banana Smash Recipe
Unpeel bananas (one per person)
Freeze in plastic bag overnight
Blend frozen bananas in blender
You can add a little bit of coconut milk to make extra creamy, if desired
Voila! Frozen banana “smash” that tastes like ice cream! We sometimes top with heated blueberries for “sundae” style
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ABOUT ANGELA: Angela has been changing the way children watch TV for over 15 years. She is a Founding Partner & Chief Creative Officer of Out of the Blue Enterprises LLC, overseeing all creative development with the vision to bring educational entertainment to a whole new level.
Angela Santomero is the Lead Creator, Executive Producer and Head Writer for Nick Jr.’s landmark preschool show Blue’s Clues. Malcolm Gladwell referred to it as “One of the stickiest TV shows EVER made” in his book, The Tipping Point. Her ability to integrate education, entertainment & active participation helped make Blue’s Clues a breakthrough program. Currently, Angela is the Creator, Executive Producer & Head Writer of the Emmy-nominated and #1 ranked preschool show, Super Why!, which helps build literacy skills through fractured fairytales & interactive games. She recently unveiled her latest, (the Mister Rogers’ spin off) Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood this week. She presently hosts PBS’ The Parent Show at PBSparents.org.
Angela is a Peabody Award Winner for Outstanding Children’s Programming, a Gold & Silver Parents Choice Awards recipient & has been nominated for over 35 Emmy Awards. Her blog, AngelasClues.com, approaches Parenting from her vantage point as a successful childrens’ media creator, to assist parents with the most important job of all!