Let’s Get Healthy! Teaching children about healthy food choices

We’ve learned that good nutrition in early life is critical to children’s health as they grow up and as adults. There are simple steps you can take to help your children eat well:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; your children will follow your example.
  • Create games to teach your children about healthy foods.
  • Involve your children in cooking at home.
  • Grow a garden at home, or participate in a community garden.

You can also use the Let’s Get Healthy! epigenetics learning station to teach your middle-school and older children about how our choices change our health.

It turns out that genes aren’t a rigid blueprint for health. Our health is influenced by our genetics and epigenetics. Genetics refers to the DNA we get from our parents (our genome), while epigenetics describes the state of activity of our genes (our epigenome). The latter can be changed in our bodies by the things we are exposed to in the environment and the lifestyle choices that we make. It’s where nature meets nurture. Environmental stimuli, such as nutrition or stress, affect the activity of our genes and, consequently, our health. The effects can be passed down to offspring, shaping the health of future generations.

The Let’s Get Healthy! program at OHSU has developed an interactive game that helps kids, parents and teachers explore this brand new field of science. Tour three game levels about bees, mice and humans to learn about genetics and epigenetics.

In the fourth game level, create an avatar and twin-ize them. You’ll select your diet, sleep, air and stress levels to see how different your avatar and its twin become. Fast forward in time to see how your genomes remain the same, but your epigenomes become different. The game clearly demonstrates how our health can be changed by our everyday choices.

In addition to the game, the website has several printable handouts and tools that you’re welcome to use. Teachers, parents and others can also download free classroom lessons and activities about epigenetics.

By teaching our children about how the choices we make matter to our health, we can help make sure that they and their children grow up as healthy as possible.

Susan Bagby, M.D.
Chair, Community Education and Outreach Committee
OHSU Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness
Professor of Nephrology & Hypertension

Lisa Marriott, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Let’s Get Healthy!
Assistant Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine