One of my strategies for keeping up family motivation about healthy food is a regular media diet on the subject of nutrition. A personal favorite health inspiration is my monthly Nutrition Action newsletter. For my daughter June I always try and highlight newspaper or magazine articles that discuss the benefits of healthy eating.
But the visual messages conveyed by films and TV can be a powerful motivational tool in nutrition. With occasional exposure to entertaining health movies and shows, they can reinforce all the nutrition teaching you do for your kids. Here are my recommended health movies and shows:
Fed Up is a documentary about the US food industry’s contributions to our skyrocketing lifestyle diseases. While that may sound like a snooze-fest, this Katie Couric film makes the information compelling, and it’s stirring.
It might appeal to tweens and teens with an interest in health, but a caution for those with body image issues. The film highlights several kids’ struggles with obesity, which may be helpful to some kids and painful for others. This documentary can truly recharge your batteries to make some healthy changes and advocate for transparency in food labeling. Bravo for this one!
Available on Netflix
I love this film! And it’s not only educational, but entertaining, as well. This one I recommend for adults, tweens, and teens. Although much of the information about the sugar industry isn’t groundbreaking, Sugar Coated uses the best of what filmmaking has to offer to get their message across.
The most compelling parts of the movie are the personal stories. I was drawn in by a Denver dentist who was moved to action after watching the upsetting increase in cavities in her inner city clinic. Her authenticity leapt off the screen and into my heart as she turned detective and uncovered internal documents by the sugar industry that are an outrage. She’s very inspiring.
It’s a Canadian-made film, which I think gives it freshness, but most of the experts and action takes place in the U.S. I highly recommend this movie for boosting your wellness motivation!
Available on Netflix
Super Size Me
I’m actually glad I didn’t think to check the Common Sense Media guidance before watching Super Size Me with June, who is 9. If I had I probably wouldn’t have allowed her to watch this film, and she would have missed this fantastic reinforcement for all the nutrition education Jake and I have been teaching her.
Anyone who wants to know how to make a health documentary appeal to kids should take some notes on this film. This movie does a good job of keeping things light and entertaining, but clearly imparts the message, “you are what you eat.” Morgan Spurlock eats only McDonald’s for a month and you get to watch him transform into a sick man over this scarily short period of time. Check out the Common Sense Media descriptions or preview it yourself first before showing it to your kids.
Available on Netflix
That Sugar Film
If I had read the Common Sense movie reviews for Super Size Me, That Sugar Film is the movie I would have chosen for June instead. It’s basically an updated version of Supersize Me, but with sugar. Damon Gameau is a funny Australian actor who goes 60 days with the average Australian’s sugar intake: 40 teaspoons per day. He otherwise eats his regular healthy diet and continues his regular exercise regimen.
An intriguing part of this experiment is that he can only use sugar foods that are perceived to be “healthy”: yogurts, granola bars, juices. It’s a well-made, entertaining and eye-opening film, one that I think delivers a message that can be meaningful to kids maybe 9+. Fun cameos by Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry. Check the Common Sense Media review, as it’s not squeaky clean, although cleaner than Super Size Me.
Available on Amazon Prime
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution
You can watch Jamie’s Food Revolution free on ABC or rent from amazon. This one I recommend watching with your kids age 8+. Jamie Oliver is a top chef who takes on a mission to improve the nutrition in U.S. public schools. He’s a funny, likable guy that kids find appealing.
It’s a great show to get kids thinking about their food and they can relate to the school setting and learn about nutrition along with the kids in the show. You can follow his journey to a West Virginia elementary school with a goal of making school lunches healthier.
Ellie Krieger’s Real Good Food
Ellie Krieger is always an inspiration for me. She’s a dietician with a plethora of healthy cookbooks and a wonderful healthy eating cooking show on PBS called Ellie’s Real Good Food. You can watch the recipe preparations by Ellie free on youtube.
Hey Kids Let’s Cook
Hey Kids Let’s Cook shows kids preparing healthy foods and is great inspiration for your kids to get in the kitchen and try some of these easy, fun, and nutritious recipes. You can watch short recipe preparations free on youtube.
Kids Lunchtime Challenge Winners at the White House
This PBS link will take you to some short interviews with 4 of the winners from the Kids Lunchtime Challenge at the White House in 2015. These 8-12 year olds sent in their very own healthy recipes to the White House, and were selected one from each state to attend a White House luncheon. I love listening to their stories. Their enthusiasm about healthy eating and their very own healthy recipes is quite infectious! Show your kids these interviews. Nothing like kids to inspire other kids!
Tasty Time with ZeFronk
Here’s a show for the little ones. Tasty Time with ZeFronk features a French dog who shows kids how to make healthy, fun foods. Of course there are lots of laughs to be had along the way. You can watch episodes for free on youtube.
Your kids’ first response to Bizarre Foods may be, “Gross!” But Andrew Zimmern takes a fun, lighthearted approach to visiting other countries and trying their exotic foods. I think it’s broadening to see how foods that do indeed seem gross and weird to us are perfectly normal and delicious to others. The show has a fun but respectful approach to these strange foods. Do take caution if you or your kids have queasy stomachs though! You can watch free episodes on youtube.