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Cooking up good family food habits Thumbnail

Cooking up good family food habits

Setting the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating habits should begin at home when kids are young. After all, children are naturally curious, so what could be better than having them join you in the kitchen and start exploring different tastes and textures while learning how diverse and pleasing healthy meals can be? The experience can be educational – and downright fun!

Here are three major benefits to having kids join you in the kitchen.

1. It helps them develop a more adventurous palate

You can almost count on most kids being fussy eaters, at least for a little while. Sometimes they can choose their favourites and never want to venture off that path, which can be a problem if those favourites are not as healthy as you’d like.

Bringing kids into the kitchen to help you wash ingredients and prepare their plates, can open up their senses to new tastes, especially when they’re more likely to sample something they’ve helped make. It’s also a great chance to talk about the benefits of a balanced diet and how the right foods can help them grow.

2. It’s a time for exploration and discovery

Aside from the opportunities to teach kids about better nutrition, preparing food can be an entertaining activity – and not just when they’re young. Having kids participate in the process from start to finish makes it more fun for everyone.

3. It can boost confidence

Cooking can be educational and boost confidence. Think of all the measuring, counting, timing, adding, subtracting, new words, etc., that essentially are lessons in a number of subjects they’re familiar with at school.

Encouraging and praising children in a kitchen setting – and then all enjoying the results of their efforts together – can be a very fulfilling moment for any child, as they will grow more confident with the sense of accomplishment that comes with properly preparing food.

Fun tip: give the child the opportunity to name the dish they helped create for an extra boost in self-confidence and to commemorate the achievement.  

Why not make it a game?

If some kids need a little more encouragement or incentive to get into the food prep process, think creatively about how to make the experience a game they can enjoy while learning.  

You can ask questions, such as “what do you think t-b-s-p stands for?” or conduct a taste test to discover and describe what the difference is between savoury and sweet, or what the term “processed foods” means.

Simply using the correct terms when measuring, cooking, tasting and serving can lead to learning new words associated with the kitchen. For example, explain the meaning of dice, chop, sprig, mince, pinch, peel, whisk, blend and bake while the process is underway. The idea is to make cooking and eating exciting and interesting instead of being just another chore. This can lead to healthier habits and improved wellbeing for a lifetime.     

The experience isn’t entirely one-sided. Lots of adults can use the opportunity to improve their own cooking skills while teaching children the basics. The goal can be to cooperate on making meals together and eating healthier as a family. 

Ready to begin?

If you’re ready to introduce a young person to the joys of cooking, consider starting with a meal that’s quick and easy to prepare and a pleasure to eat, like this recipe for healthy chicken stir fry for kids:

For more information about healthy food choices, refer to the recently updated Canada Food Guide. Consider some other possibilities when it comes to kid-friendly recipes and how to get them interested and involved in the kitchen.  

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