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Healthy Eating for Life

Kids won’t eat what they don’t know. That’s why LANA the iguana introduces kiwis, sweet potatoes, and a whole rainbow of fruits and vegetables to preschool children across the nation.

The Minnesota Department of Health developed the LANA program – Learning About Nutrition through Activities – in 2006 as a way to address poor eating habits among children. The idea behind the program is simple: Introduce children to fruits and vegetables through their natural love of toys, play, and hands-on experimentation. LANA the iguana – a plush hand puppet – uses storybooks, menus, food-based craft projects, and eight different stuffed toys to make fruits and vegetables an everyday part of a child’s world. 

 No threats or bargains (“You won’t get a popsicle until you eat your vegetables”) are involved. Just a vegetarian iguana who, with the right groceries nearby, can teach preschoolers that fruits and vegetables are worth trying, yummy and – perhaps most importantly – normal.

The LANA program includes materials to connect class activities to home environments, so parents find it easy to incorporate the lessons into their home meals and snacks.

The LANA program has been proven effective. The initial 24-week pilot resulted in increased fruit and vegetable consumption among 500 children in childcare centers. In 2009, 75 licensed home childcare providers in Dakota County, Minn., put LANA to the test and found that, after the program, more than two-thirds of the children were more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and 92 percent were more likely to try new foods. In addition, 81 percent of parents offered the targeted fruits and vegetable of the LANA program more often, and a majority of parents reported reduced food “pickiness” in their preschool children.

Brought to you by guest blogger, Michael Lotti.

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