SEPTEMBER 7, 2021 — Jack Foldager of Anchorage has hit the big time in the social media world — over 14,000 followers on his family's TikTok account and 3 million video views by the start of September. Big deal, you think. Well, he’s 4-years-old.
Lots of news media have picked up his story, including CNN. Why? Jack loves eating vegetables straight from the garden.
Jack’s dad, Trent Foldager, posted a video of Jack in their garden, eating a turnip right out of the ground and spouting nutritional facts about the vegetables surrounding him.
“It was a simple, cute, fun story,” said Trent about why the video went viral. “Jack’s not the only kid who’s taken a vegetable out of the garden and wiped dirt on his pants. People resonated with it.”
Offering little kids like Jack two healthy choices
While some parents have a hard time getting their kids to even try vegetables, Jack eagerly eats them. How did his parents do it?
Jack’s mom, Oksana Foldager, explains: “We cook our meals and sometimes Jack wouldn’t want what we were eating. We started giving him a choice. ‘Do you want broccoli or beans, a radish or a carrot?’ When he makes the choice, he feels like he had a success.”
In the video, Oksana mentions that they practice “Two Healthy Choices” with their kids — a message that the Play Every Day campaign is promoting in a new video this year.
“Two Healthy Choices” models a parenting technique that’s often taught to families with toddlers and preschool-age children. Parents want their children to have healthy foods and drinks. Children want to be in charge of their choices. Recognizing that, parents can give them choices, but limit those options to two and make sure both choices are acceptable to the family. By offering two healthy choices, the child feels empowered to make a choice and the parent is happy with it either way.
Play Every Day supports giving children food and drink options that will keep kids healthy. Eating a variety of healthy foods and drinks supports children as they grow, develop and learn. Healthy options also help protect children from diseases that occur later in life, like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein give children more energy to play every day, too.
Giving children two healthy choices can help them build confidence and make better decisions about their food choices as they grow up.
“It’s our responsibility as parents to set them up for a healthy future,” Oksana said.
Kids can be picky. Just keep trying.
Gardening and a favorite book about eating plants have helped spur Jack’s love of vegetables, but there are other ways to get kids more involved with the food they are eating. The Foldagers also take Jack to the local farmers market and grocery store. Jack helps pick the produce the family will eat for the week.
“Kids naturally gravitate towards colorful foods,” Trent said. Involving young kids in picking out groceries, helping prepare food and choosing what to eat can make it easier to get them to eat healthy foods.
Jack is still a typical young child with those finicky eating habits that can drive parents crazy.
“He might eat cabbage one week and then kale the next,” said Trent. “We don’t always know what he’s going to want to eat, so we try different things.”
Oksana recommends that parents be patient when it comes to food for their kids.
“Incorporate variety, try new things. All kids can be picky. You just have to keep trying,” she said.
The Foldagers don’t limit their children to healthy food only, but they’ve found that Jack often gravitates toward healthier choices on his own. Recently, they took the family to the Alaska State Fair and bought crab cakes and fries. Jack didn’t want that. Jack had his eye on the carrots at the farmers market stand.
Photographs courtesy of Foldager family
Play Every Day is a campaign with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to help Alaska children grow up at a healthy weight and encourage families to be physically active and choose healthy foods and drinks. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/playeverydayak or www.playeveryday.alaska.gov.