Episode 33: Helping kids develop positive relationships with food, with Janet Nezon from Rainbow Plate

Welcome back to the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast! To kick of season 4 we are bringing you a fun conversation with Janet Nezon from Rainbow Plate. Janet is the Founder and Executive Director of Rainbow Plate, a social enterprise which aims to develop resources for children and parents to help them cultivate positive relationships with food. Tune in to learn more about what inspired Janet to want to work with kids and family, how she enjoys connecting with her grandkids over food and eating, ah ha moments, and keeping it simple. 

Episode Transcript:

Lisa Tang  0:05 

Hello, and welcome to the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast hosted by the Guelph Family Health Study.

Sabrina Douglas  0:11 

If you’re interested in the most recent research and helpful tips for a healthy, balanced living for you and your family, then this podcast is for you. In each episode we  will bring you topics that are important to your growing family and guests who will share their expertise and experience with you.

Lisa Tang  0:27 

Our quick tips will help your family build healthy habits for a happy home.

Welcome to Season Four of the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast. This exciting season will once again be hosted by me, Lisa Tang,

Sabrina Douglas  0:47 

…and me, Sabrina Douglas. This is our best season yet. We’re going to be discussing topics like speech and language development in young children, the importance of play, and advice from a mom with older kids who has been there and done that.

Lisa Tang  0:59 

We’ll be talking about stress and how it impacts our health, and even touching on some things you might normally avoid,  like constipation.

Sabrina Douglas  1:06 

We look forward to going on our Season Four adventure with you. So join us for our  podcast every other week starting October 5th, wherever you listen to podcasts.

Lisa Tang  1:15 

And this week, we’re excited to be talking to Janet Nezon, all about Rainbow Plate, which is a social enterprise  Janet started a few years ago that aims to develop resources for children and parents to help them develop positive relationships with food. Welcome, Janet, thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Janet Nezon  1:31 

 Thank you so much for inviting me to join you.

Lisa Tang  1:34 

To start off, can you please introduce yourself to the listeners by talking about your current role and how your education and expertise has led you to where you are?

Janet Nezon  1:43 

Absolutely. So my current role is founder and executive director of Rainbow Plate. And how I got here is sort of a story of following my passion. I came from an academic background. I studied nutritional science in undergrad I have a specialist degree in nutrition science. And then I did a graduate degree in health promotion, where I really focused in on children’s health behaviours. It was sort of my interest … how I interpreted health promotion was around education and really a lot of work in the space of helping children focusing on children’s health behaviours. And how I got here was through one of those kind of aha moments. I’ve had a long career as an educator in various settings. And I ended up as an academic lecturer in a college. And it was away at a clinical conference and nutrition conference that I had  one of those aha moments that made me realize that where I wanted to focus my energy was on children, and making children and families healthier, through a focus on food and healthy eating.

Lisa Tang  2:55 

Thanks so much for sharing your background with us. I know as a dietitian, working with the Guelph Family Health Study, for sure, I found working with families just so incredibly rewarding. And I’m wondering what inspired you to want to work with families around food and nutrition?

Janet Nezon  3:11 

Absolutely. And I suppose I should always add when I when I talk about my background, I’m a mom, I raised a family. I have, you know, in addition to my academic credentials, I’ve been there.  I’ve got three children who are now adults, they’re in their 20s and 30s. And in fact, I’m actually a grandma.  I became a grandmother during the pandemic. And so I know firsthand what it’s like to go through that journey of helping your children discover food and eat food and learn about that and have all the challenges. And as I said, when it was back in my undergrad, when I was studying nutritional science, I remember specifically there was this one experience where someone came into one of our lectures with this beautiful inspiring program for engaging families. And I remember saying, that’s what I want to do. And that was ultimately, what spring-boarded me into my graduate program in health promotion. But as I said, you know, I decided back when I was working in a very academic setting that I wanted to help make the future a healthier place. And I think working with families and with children is sort of like planting seeds for that. And I know that, and doing so pays off in ways that we can see so far down the road. And again, having seen it myself in action.

Sabrina Douglas  4:31 

That’s lovely. We obviously share the passion for food and nutrition and family so it’s always nice to hear what inspires others. So we know a bit about Rainbow Plate from your visit to the Guelph Family Health Study and from following you on your lovely Instagram account. But can you tell the listeners maybe a bit more about Rainbow Plate, including why you decided to start the initiative and how its evolved over the years?

Janet Nezon  4:55 

Absolutely. So as I said I was, my career, you know when I finished graduate school, I ended up as an educator. In fact, I was director of education at a teaching hospital for years, and then I became an academic instructor teaching really hard core science and including nutrition and so on to future health professionals. And, really, the spark for Rainbow Plate happened at this conference I mentioned earlier, and it was a really high level clinical talking to health professionals, and, you know, really the state of the art of nutrition. And I had this aha moment, it was out on a break from the conference. And- the story used to be on the website- but it was one of those moments of like, okay, when it comes to, you know, the clinical side of nutrition, sure, we can dive deep into all these points, and so on. But when we step back and look at families and children and us as individuals, it’s really fairly simple. And this science, you know, the big picture of what we all need to know, to help nourish ourselves and nourish our children hasn’t changed a lot and hadn’t changed since I was back in undergrad. And I looked at all the resources and  what people were doing, and there wasn’t a lot out there for children. And it occurred to me that if we want to create this healthy future, that we need to start there. And by planting the seeds with children, we can help raise children who have this comfortable and positive relationship with all food, and can nourish themselves well. And that’s such a better approach than trying to pick up the pieces down the road. And so the spark for Rainbow Plate literally happened on a park bench in New York City in 2006, when I was on the break from this conference, and in fact, that’s where I made up or I sort of came up with the rhyme in my head, “Rainbow Plate, Rainbow Plate, tell me the colours that you ate,” because I also really felt that in order to engage with children and adults who are surrounding children as they develop their relationship with food, we needed to make it simple. And we need to find a way of engaging them that just is easy to connect to for all different people. And so rainbow plates started.  It took me about six years after that aha moment to have the courage to leave kind of secure employment and,  you know, spark out on this entrepreneurial journey, which was really never my vision, but somehow it’s what I’ve done. And when rainbow plate started in 2012, we really began by delivering workshops to children, in schools and childcare organizations. And that was the journey for many years. We worked in all different settings from daycares to elementary schools to  Montessori and community organizations, and delivered these very interactive… they were like field trips that would come into the classroom, and they took all the principles of rainbow plate and put them into action, inspiring children and helping them explore and experience all different kinds of food. And it was just mind blowing to see the reaction and the impact of this work directly with children. So that was the focus for  2012 to 2018, about six years. And we reached thousand upon thousands of children. And that was also when we had our  research evaluation done and published. But we pivoted as an organization in 2018. really having got this evidence behind what we were doing and validating what we’ve been seeing with our own eyes. Wow, this works. It’s so engaging. And then the question was okay, how do we do this in a way that can reach so many more children? So the evolution of the organization sort of pivoted in 2018, where we step back from delivering these hands-on workshops- because they’re very time consuming, they’re very kind of complex, logistically, I mean, the business side of it became a bit, you know, cumbersome to do on a scale. And that was when we pivoted to creating resources and saying, Well, how about instead of us, connecting directly with every child we’re trying to reach, how can we support those adults who are influencing children in their evolving relationship with food, and we began to create resources for early childhood educators and all people who work in those settings with kids. And then, most recently pivoting to parents, who are also, of course, in that same situation. So that’s kind of where we’re at now, is really working at that level with all the different adults who are connecting to children and who are involved in their lives in ways that will influence their relationship with food.

Lisa Tang  9:20 

That’s so amazing. Thank you for sharing everything. It’s really cool to see how you took your extensive experience as an educator, and on kind of the higher level education and applied that to young children and families. And I’m interested, you had mentioned, just while you were talking about bringing the key principles of Rainbow Plate into the classroom, and now pivoting more to resources. So, I’m actually wondering if you could just speak a little bit more to some of those key principles in your approach to nutrition education for kids, as well as parents, if you can.

Janet Nezon  9:55 

Absolutely. And in fact, you know, one of the points I do make is we don’t really even use the word nutrition in the work that we’re doing with children for sure. Because we talk about food education, and that itself reflects one of the biggest principles behind Rainbow Plate. And,  in fact, what it is, is actually changing the way we look at and we connect to food. Of course, we it’s about nutrition. And of course, we need to be nourishing ourselves. And we’re helping people, you know, support children in developing the right approach and understanding how to nourish their bodies. But what we learned simply by doing it all those years in the workshops, is that when we stopped talking about the nutrition side, and when we focus on our senses, that’s what engages children the most. And so the biggest principle is food education. And it’s what we call sensory food education, because we all connect with food, through our senses, when we think about how we eat, and therefore kind of how we influence what’s going to appeal to a child, it is those elements of food that we can determine through our senses, rather than, you know, what nutrients does a carrot contain. It’s Wow, like, Look at how beautiful those greens are in smell the smell of the carrot and taste. So the biggest principle is that we are using our senses rather than focusing on information about food. And we’re also supporting children in doing that. And on the website, there’s a list there’s a sort of a think you can actually download it, but the the the terms are listed out what we call the key ingredients behind the Rainbow Plate approach. And so the sensory piece is behind it all. And I think the first one is always you know, to me the place to start, which is that as adults working with children, our job is to expose and support children in exploring about food, rather than, you know, we use the word preach, which I don’t want to offend anybody, but rather than saying, telling children all this information, we set the stage and provide this relaxed and open-ended context in which children can just explore and discover everything. So to me, that’s really key. And the other thing, I think, you know, there are all these principles there. And I’m not going to go through all of them in the interest of time. But if I was to pick a couple others that really encompass everything, the second one would be meeting people where they’re at. And I think that so much behind our approach is about, first of all, helping everyone relax around food. And I think in order to do that, it’s about recognizing that we’re all in different places with food. We, as adults, who are, who are parents who are educators, we have our own history with food, we have our own relationship, and we bring that to the table, pardon the pun. And and so do children, every child is sort of starting somewhere different every child- I’m not a believer in use of the word picky, picky eating, I don’t think we help children when we refer to them as picky eaters. I think that that sets up a bit of a context that becomes self-fulfilling. Like we tend to relate to children different, Oh, they’re picky.  I believe we are all, even us as adults, we’re all learning eaters. And so we’re just at different stages in that journey. And I think that’s a big principle behind the approach is to just start where anyone’s at and help them to get comfortable and to move wherever we can help them to move and exploring and expanding their relationship with food. And then the other principle that I would pull out of our, well, there’s two more- hope or not, I’m not taking too much time. But this is sort of the essence of what we’re about.  Okay, like I said,  I could keep talking all day.  But food connects everything. And so historically, when we look at how particularly children were taught about food and nutrition, it’s sort of like, today we’re talking about geography. And now it’s this and now it’s environment, and this and that, and now it’s nutrition. And it’s in this little box, and we look at the foods and we talk about the nutrients in the food groups, and it’s very isolated. And Rainbow Plate is blowing that open and recognizing that what we eat and and how we eat, and how we relate to food is a product of so many variables in our lives- some of which we have no control over, of course, lots of which we do. But food is our culture; it’s our heritage. It’s how we celebrate. It’s how we connect with other people. It’s how we relax; it’s everything. And so we can do two things with that. One is to recognize that that’s also influencing where people are at and what they eat and what they have access to. But the other thing that that really is behind our resources is that we can use food to teach a child anything or to explore ideas and concepts across all areas of the curriculum. So you can use vegetables to explore math concepts. You can use, you know, a red pepper for an art lesson or for a discussion about how I’m feeling today.  I just put on… if you’re on my social media, I just put a photo yesterday of a red pepper that’s got a little thumb sticking up and we could use that to spark up a whole discussion about food or… And so it’s this beautiful opportunity to weave food and food experiences throughout the whole fabric of a child’s existence. And that’s how we really support the development of, this healthy and, you know, food is everywhere. And so we need to help our kids relate to that. And the last principle that I do want to highlight, because it’s sort of my favourite, and it’s ultimately, it sort of really does tell my story, it’s called, “Janet creates an organization because she’s just freaking obsessed with food and fruits and vegetables.” [laughter] And that is just marvelling at the magic that we can see in front of us from watching a bean sprout, to walking, you know, holding up any piece of food, and it’s not all fruits and vegetables, I mean, we’re really working to expand beyond, but just when we stop, and we slow down, and we look at any food item, or we smell and we just, you know, use our senses to dive in, things are beautiful, and there are marvellous sights to see and smells and aromas. And again, that’s how we really can captivate anyone, especially if we kind of step back and set the stage and and let the magic unfold. And it’s what we saw three years in all of those workshops with children that that has kind of reinforced why this is the right approach.

Sabrina Douglas  16:21 

I love that. You’ve just painted such a beautiful picture for everybody to get a sense of what has inspired you throughout the process. And I’m curious, I’m curious about- you’ve mentioned and I’ve noticed on your website as well- that you use the term evidence-based to describe the principles you go by? And can you talk about what this means and why it’s important to you to use evidence-based strategies and be informed by research?

Janet Nezon  16:47 

Yeah, I think particularly in this space of nutrition, and if you’re out there on social media, it’s  enormous, the field and there’s so many different things that people are promoting and approaches and there’s information and it’s, it’s hard to make sense of it for people. And I think when when Rainbow Plate began and the tagline under the logo even is “Healthy Eating Made Simple.” Part of what I heard from people is, like, I don’t even know where to begin, like, I one day I read, “I should be drinking celery juice, and the next day, I should be on a Keto diet or this or that.” And so much of what drove the launch of Rainbow Plate was to help people make sense of it all and to just make things simple. And so, in order to do that, for me, it really did matter, that what Rainbow Plate was about and what we were promoting was coming from a place of evidence. Saying that, you know what, we’re not going to spend our time criticizing. My job is not to be discussing all those other things, but to rather say, this is what the science is telling us. And in the end, you know, the core science, as I said, which is really where it came from, comes back to these very simple principles of, you know, what nourishes us and what to focus on, what kind of really matters when it comes to our nutrition and our health. And then also what was really beautiful- so there’s a kind of anchor what we’re doing in a place that has solid, you know, information behind it that we know is trustworthy, and it’s not going to help take people offline- but was also beautiful that as Rainbow Plate evolved, and full disclosure, when I created those initial workshops, and they just came from my background in, you know, in health promotion, and education and all of that. So there was, there was a lot of evidence, you know, in my education that went into the development of those original programs. But, in terms of sort of this sensory-based approach to children and food, the evidence has grown along with Rainbow Plate, and there’s been this increasing body of evidence out there from other practitioners around the world. There’s actually a lot of people in Europe doing work in this space. And what’s been so beautiful for me to see is that it has validated what we were just seeing with our own eyes and backed up this approach. And then, we also had the beauty of having our own piece of research done- an evaluation that showed unequivocally It was a very, you know, it was a pilot study, but the results were so clear that when we really took an academic approach, and did an evaluation of what we were doing,  it showed children, after experiencing this approach, changed the way they related to food, and they change their consumption habits when we measured it. So, kids after being in Rainbow programs help themselves, when we just gave them the opportunity to do so, they help themselves to 40% more fruits and vegetables, you know, then if before they had Rainbow Plate workshop, and they actually ate 50% more. So, this validated our sense that kids do seem to relate to this differently. And, I think in a world where there are so many ways of doing things- and it’s not that the others are necessarily bad or wrong- but to me, it helps us to feel credible and to know that what we’re promoting is something that has this weight of science behind it. And, the other reason I think is also that we do a lot of work in with organizations that are very evidence-based, like academic, organizations, through university, and we’re now working with educators in early-childhood centres, who do require that and who are operating and educating professionals in ways that require best practice and evidence. So it all kind of lined up.

Lisa Tang  20:20 

Thank you so much for sharing all of that. As you were talking earlier about, like, the carrot and kind of like smelling the carrot and looking at the beautiful green leaves, it kind of brought back this memory. One of my favourite memories as a kid, actually, was going through my Nona’s garden and smelling the tomato plants- not even just the tomato but like the whole  plant. I used to just she had like a half an acre in her backyard of just- and she gardened everything, like, everything, every vegetable you can think.  I loved, loved the smell of those plants and I can close my eyes and, like, remember the smell of the tomato plants… and I’m a horrible gardener, I gotta tell you, like, I try.  I am slowly learning but I can keep cherry tomatoes.

Janet Nezon  21:05 

Yes, I just, I was scrambling to join you guys this morning because I am now gardening actually out in front of my house because our backyard has gotten  very shady- we have so many beautiful trees around. So, I now have – and I’ve just shared some images on my social media so you can check the Instagram stories-  but, we now have this garden on the driveway and and so on. And, what’s amazing is that people stop by, all the neighbourhood children know me is that lady who grows the vegetables, and, but also I love that you said that about the smell. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about. And, in the resources that we’re creating, we have prompts for adults to test to exactly have children do that, you know, rather than this is a tomato and it has Vitamin C and all that is that’s great. But, what’s going to really stick with someone is that memory and that smell, and what’s really beautiful about food is that using our senses carries us back, like, to your Nona’s garden, and when we help children do that, it just opens up this magical world for them.

Lisa Tang  21:07 

Right? Oh my gosh. And so I’m hoping, like, I have some cherry tomatoes and some Swiss chard, Swiss chard, and I’m giving it a shot. You know, I mean, worst case, it doesn’t grow. And I’ll try again next year.

Janet Nezon  22:24 

And you learn from that, too. And that’s a beautiful thing for kids. I mean, you know what, I I’ve seen it in action, of course, and with people of all ages, but for sure, with children, just watching something unfold. Actually, my mother just turned 89 and I bought her a little- she lives in a condo, so she doesn’t have a balcony- I bought her a little hydroponic herb garden, last week for her birthday- because she comes when she cooks, since the pandemic. And, I can see her light up and watching those plants grow and start small, and, you know, there are so many lessons that come out of watching that Swiss chard or those tomatoes grow. And, I’m sorry, I don’t think there’s anything that tastes better than a fresh cherry tomato pulled right off the vine in the sun. Ours never make it in the house. And we have like huge vines, last year, of all these tomatoes, and they literally just all get eaten off the vine. And, we never, I’m like, we never have any bowls of tomatoes because they’re all gone because everybody just eats them but they’re beautiful memories.

Lisa Tang  23:23 

I love that. My son calls it, Matteo, my one of my kids is named Matteo, and he goes, “Matteo Versus Squirrel: and who’s gonna get that tomato first?” [laughter] So, I’m wondering, you talked about, really, a lot of awesome ways to explore new foods with kids, like, as you were talking about Rainbow Plate, and I’m wondering if you could maybe share if you had, like some of your favourite ways, perhaps to explore new foods with kids? And I’m just thinking that maybe parents listening could perhaps take some of your favourite ways to explore  new foods and incorporate it into their own home.

Janet Nezon  23:55 

For sure. The biggest way to start is to really let kids take the lead and to not have any kind of preset agenda because it’s so amazing where you think things will go when they’re not, you know, when you give a child something- the way we always start is by reminding children that what we’re doing is becoming Rainbow Food Explorers. That what we’re not about here is “eat this.” We’re not talking about health, we’re not talking about nutrition, but it’s really helping set that stage for what we’re hoping will happen- is simply exploration. So, whatever happens is fantastic. And the way to kind of inspire and spark that, and again, these are kind of all the prompts throughout our resources do this as well, we remind kids,  Well, what does an explorer do? You know, they ask questions, they discover new things. We’re just here to discover  so it’s not like we’re here saying well we want to find da da da da da. It’s keeping it open-ended and reminding children that a Rainbow Food Explorer, and you know, you can use that term or not, but what we’re doing is thinking about using all of our senses, and reminding kids, What does that mean? We can see how things look; we can use our fingers to see how they feel; of course, smell and we can even hear food and how is that? So I would always, you know, begin by helping kids to get really excited about all the ways they can use their senses to explore. And then, really, you know, in the in the ECE world, we talked about using a ‘wonder mindset,’ just being open to being amazed at what we discover. So kind of setting that stage for kids, and then letting them go with with it from there, how we’ve often proceeded- and again, it’s sort of as a natural way of exploring anything- is you start with the whole item. So, if we’re talking fruits and vegetables, you know, red pepper again, because I’m thinking red peppers, because of that image, you know, you start with the whole thing on the outside, and you can ask questions. You can use all your senses with that. And then, what we do is we can support and, again, try to ask open-ended questions that kids can look, looking for things like shapes and colours, and features? Are there things like bumps or sides or stems and leaves? And then that can spark a discussion. Well, if there’s a stem on that pepper, Wow look at the shape of it. And what does that remind you of? So again, asking questions that leave things wide open for children to answer. And then, once we’ve explored everything about the outside, then gradually taking it apart and seeing what’s inside. And again, the other thing around exploring is, if we’re really doing you know, a Rainbow Food Explorer experience, we often suggest that parents do that at a time that’s not mealtime, because then what we’re doing is taking away any kind of pressure to eat anything. And this is one of the things that we saw so powerfully in all those years of workshops with thousands of children, we would have- you know, we always had teachers and parent volunteers in our classroom workshops- and without fail, every single workshop, one adult would come up to me and grab me by the arm and say, “Do you see that child over there? He never eats any vegetables, and I’m watching him shovel raw purple cabbage in his mouth, and chop and gobble it up and love it and red peppers. And they’re like, how are you doing this, like you’re the vegetable whisperer.” And, I said, “Because we’re not telling them to eat it. We’re just inviting them to see the way it smells, and taste and feels, and so on.” And that just, is promoting it. So, you know, I think being open-ended, using the senses, starting with the outside and prompting about features and things, and then taking it apart and then zero pressure to eat anything. And, that was sort of the my approach to do that. The other thing I would add, you know, it’s a very natural, I mean, it’s very parental and a very human thing to immediately, if someone, if a child takes a bite or tastes anything, is to ask them, “Do you like it? What do you think?” And, I’ve even seen other similar programs that have kind of a thumbs up/ thumbs down rating. There are  even tools out there where they ask children to rate the food. We don’t do that. Because what we’ve found, and there’s actually evidence behind this, to go back to the word of evidence, that once a child says, “Yep, I like peppers, or No, I don’t, ” that can be really hard to budge. Children put those foods in categories, “No, I don’t eat. I’m not a pepper eater. I’m a this.” and then, once, you’re kind of stuck. And so, what we really try to do when exploring is really help giving children the lan gauge to describe what they’re seeing and smelling and feeling, rather than really asking them if they like it or not. And that’s hard to do. But it’s really powerful when we do that. So those would be my recommendations and some suggestions around how to do how to do all this. And there again, are all written in the resources that we’ve created.

Sabrina Douglas  28:51 

I’m curious, do you have, like, maybe a go-to recipe that lends itself well to exploring new foods this way with kids?

Janet Nezon  29:00 

Yeah.. It’s funny because Rainbow Plate didn’t start out to be about recipes. But no matter what we’ve done- all these, because I’ve also done parent workshops, and I’m still doing those- people always want recipes. And so we’re trying to create more of them.  I would say if I pick one and I’m pretty sure it’s on the blog- it’s rainbow, anything with rainbows, of course- and I would say Rainbow Wraps, because it’s super easy. I mean, to me any recipe- I’m actually a cookbook-a-holic. I have more cookbooks than I care to admit, but I never use them when I cook I just read them for inspiration. So, I love recipes that are aren’t really recipes- that are open-ended. And so a Rainbow Wrap, and I’m pretty sure the one that we’ve posted on the blog, gives you endless opportunities-  you can use anything flat to make the wrap, whether it’s a tortilla, or a piece of, you know, a big leafy green or whatever, and then you just need something to spread on it. And then that provides an open-ended opportunity to fill it up with a rainbow of other items. And so, it’s really fantastic to give kids all kinds of choice -what things should we put inside our rainbow wrap, and we can talk about the way they look, then we can use our senses and that and so children can build their own. And it was a recipe we did year after year with kids in different workshops, which was fantastic. So, I would say that’s a super easy one. Like anything, where you have that capacity to just change it up and let kids pick different fillings. So, you know, we often talk in parent workshops around a strategy for meal times of doing deconstructed meals. So, you take a meal, like like pasta, or pizza, or tacos, or what have you, and make the basics, but then we can provide a whole rainbow of toppings to put on that and let each child make their own. And even if they don’t put it all together and eat it separately, So those kinds of recipes would be my go to, for sure. A) because they let us use a whole rainbow of options. And B) because they really give children the opportunity to do what they’re comfortable with and make it their own. And we can use all of these exploring skills in the process of building it.

Lisa Tang  31:03 

I love that, and then this way, you can also use some vegetables that are kind of hanging out in the fridge that you were hoping to use.

Janet Nezon  31:11 

So I was just gonna say, with that in mind, I would say another recipe that would for sure be an amazing one is to Rainbow Soup, because you can take anything in the world and you can make soup out of it. And, that’s really, and it’s also a great way for kids to just find a way to be involved in making a meal, because, you know, everybody can can have a piece of that process, chopping or dumping or stirring…

Lisa Tang  31:35 

I love that. Once a week, in the winter, I make this vegan chilli and it literally is just the day before I go grocery shopping and I use up all the vegetables in the fridge and throw it in and so. Those kinds of, like you said, open-ended recipes are just so fantastic.

Janet Nezon  31:51 

And especially now when we’re so focused on food waste and minimizing our food waste and that’s such an important lesson for children. You know, everything doesn’t have to look perfect and we can still eat it, we can do things with it. So, that adds as a bonus for for what we can do.

Lisa Tang  32:06 

I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing your experience with, maybe, some common barriers that you see parents facing when exploring new foods with their kids and just some suggestions maybe on how they can overcome these common barriers that you find.

Janet Nezon  32:20 

Sure. I’d say the first one that I usually hear from people is time. “I don’t have time to do that,” and, oh my goodness, in this pandemic year I know parents are just, they’re fried  and so I think that my answer to that, you know, is you don’t need to set up a whole workshop in your home and a whole, you know 2-hour experience. Take 5 minutes and-  so with everything I think my strategy is always “Keep It Simple Keep It Small,” but just keep the approach in mind. So maybe you know, if you’re at the grocery store or if you’re opening the fridge to look for something, and like, take one item and pull it out and spend 3 minutes just, you know, engaging through your senses so that helps make it less daunting for people. I think connected to that is  budget, and we’re all on tight budgets and parents are concerned, “Well, I’m not going to buy this whole rainbow of food for my children to explore and then it will get wasted.” And same thing, you know, pick one thing, you know use one radish with your child.  It’s amazing, you don’t need to have endless amounts of food and you don’t need to use really unusual- I mean sure it’s really great to explore dragon fruit or or really unusual foods but it’s just as fascinating to take apart like a common radish, which is 99 cents for a bunch right now, or something like that. It’s that whole thing that I was mentioning earlier about meeting people where they’re at. So really keeping things simple and keeping it approachable and within what feels manageable for parents. I think the other thing that I do know for sure, and it’s it’s just the real world, is that often parents will say, “Well I can’t stand that food, like I don’t really… how am I going to how am I going to get my child excited about eating you know food x when I know that I don’t really like it?” And again for me, my recommendation is let your child lead the way. Just put it out there and  have your child, sort of, be the explorer and teach you about it. And you don’t have to share your past feeling is about it, but it’s amazing how many parents have said, “Oh my gosh, when we were in that workshop, or when we saw you doing that, I discovered purple cabbage is really delicious and it’s really crunchy and I can now add it to things.” And  so we all, as I said come with our own background, but that doesn’t have to be a barrier to getting your children excited about it. Because they can find really amazing things when they go exploring and share that.

Sabrina Douglas  34:45 

Wonderful. I like what you said: keep it simple and keep it small. That’s great. And before we sign off, Janet, we wanted to ask you to tell our listeners where they can find you online and on social media. Where they can find like your resources and tools for families. We’ll link them in the show notes as well.

Janet Nezon  35:05 

Awesome. Thank you so much. So obviously a great place to start is our website Rainbowplate.com. And that’s where you would find for educators, which is not really your audience, but also for parents, we have Rainbow Food Explorers resources. So, there’s an educator toolkit, but we also have our Rainbow Food Explorers At Home ebook for parents, and it’s just a digital download. And, that has a whole guide, you know, kind of that helps, sort of, make our approach accessible for people. And it also contains a set, a whole Rainbow set of Food Explorer activity pages. We’re just about to upload some new, sort of, stand-alone ones and they’re really beautiful with with new images. And we’re also going to be adding this beautiful art photos and prints and greeting cards. And then there’s also through the website is a link to our YouTube channel where there are videos parents can watch that actually put these these pieces in action and kids can follow along with Rainbow Janet as she’s exploring some foods. So, that’s there. And then, of course, our social media.We are pretty active mostly on Instagram, I would say Instagram and Facebook, Rainbow Plate is there. And we’re always sharing inspirational tips and ideas and often link back to the blog where there are other things. And then we also have, through the website, a monthly newsletter. It’s monthly/bimonthly, depending on what month it is, but we also always share things there. So people can sign up for our newsletter and be part of our community to stay in the loop about everything that we’re doing.

Lisa Tang  36:35 

Thank you so much. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us today and  all the wonderful memories you you had brought up in my mind of my Nona’s garden. Yeah, that was, that was really nice. So, Sabrina, I just want to say a big thank you to coming on our podcasts and provided a lot of great information for our listeners and parents and a lot of great links to some to some of your what sounds like amazing resources. So, thank you again.


Janet Nezon  37:04 

And, well, thank you so much. It’s such a treat to be connected with your peer group, because I know what fabulous work you’re doing and, it’s a pleasure chatting with you. As always.