The United States is in the throes of a deadly health crisis: over 150 million adults are suffering from obesity, the cause of many diseases including heart disease, the leading killer of Americans. This toxic epidemic increasingly begins in childhood. The American Heart Association reports that 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. Obese children are 70% more likely to grow up to be obese adults, and to suffer the accompanying health problems.
Learning healthy eating begins at home. One way is teaching by example – if Mom and Dad eat well and exercise, as well as provide children with healthy meals and encouragement to be active themselves, children are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. Even better is to rediscover the lost art of spending time together in the kitchen, teaching the children how to cook their own nutritious food. While it may be difficult to find the time –or patience—required to work with kids in the kitchen, the result can be more than worth it.
Helping to prepare healthy meals not only teaches children food preparation skills and nutrition, it also provides a sense of accomplishment, encourages them to spend time with the family, and builds self-confidence in other areas as well. The only trick is how to get your children interested in assisting in the kitchen to start with.
How to Get Your Kids Interested in Cooking:
*Don’t Make Cooking a Chore or Tell Them It’s “Good for Them” – Every parent knows these things will automatically make time in the kitchen something kids will spend more energy avoiding than they ever would have actually helping. Make it sound like fun.
*Give Everyone a Special Job That Is Uniquely “Theirs” – Especially if there is more than one child involved, having one in charge of rinsing or stirring every time, or rotating specific tasks, gives them a sense of pride and possession in the finished product.
*Find Recipes That Taste Like Their “Junk Food” Favorites – Having treats now and again isn’t what makes a difference in kids’ nutrition – it’s what they eat the majority of the time. Find healthy ways of making pizza or macaroni & cheese, then have them involved in creating it. They’ll learn that they can have delicious food that they have a part in making.
*Make “Building the Perfect Plate” A Fun Game – The US Department of Agriculture has done away with the old food pyramid, and now encourages use of the “balanced plate.” This includes dividing the plate into half fruits and/or vegetables, 1/3 lean protein (fish, poultry, meat, legumes, or low-fat dairy), 1/3 whole grain, and a healthy beverage. Choosemyplate.gov offers great coloring pages to help kids learn the healthy plate method, and even offer a video game!
*Make it Simple – The easier the recipe, the more your child will want to make it again. It’s especially nice for them to learn things they can put together on their own, like salads and sandwiches. Make sure there are firm safety rules though, such as the use of the stove and sharp implements based on age and ability.
Steps to Teach Your Children Healthy Cooking
- Have your child help choose a recipe
- Examine different ingredients and adjust based on taste and health value
- Don’t forget to get long hair out of the way and wash your hands!
- Gather all of the needed ingredients and cooking tools
- Put the ingredients together
- Enjoy! A child will gain no greater delight in a meal than one they helped make themselves.
- Don’t forget to have the kids help clean up, too.
Simple Preparation Tasks for Any Age Group
- Washing Veggies and Fruit
- Assembling Ingredients
- Frosting or Other Spreading
- Sampling – Tasting the results is everybody’s favorite part!
The more time families spend together, the healthier children tend to be. According to a report from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, children who share activities such as cooking with their parents feel more supported and able to communicate, and are less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol. Getting your children involved in healthy cooking not only helps them learn proper nutrition, it can affect other areas of their lives as well.
This post is brought to you by Ron Thompson who writes for Del-Immune boosters created to naturally strengthen your immune system.
Disclosure: I received compensation for this post. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.