A new year inspires many of us to create a happier, healthier, more peaceful life.
Wellness incorporates many aspects of our life, and one we spend a lot of time on is cooking and eating!
Why should we open up our kitchens to the young (messy), creative chef? First, children who help prepare a snack or a meal or more likely to try it! Second, cooking builds independence and confidence. Third, cooking teaches language and math skills! Fourth, cooking encourages creativity! And last, cooking encourages children to make smart food choices.
Menu Planning & Grocery Shopping
Encourage your child to help contribute ideas to your weekly menu.
Take your child grocery shopping with you and encourage your child to pick out at least one new fruit or vegetable to try. Encourage them to pick out one or two “random” ingredients which you can then incorporate creatively into one of your weekly meals
It’s never too young to start teaching food safety. Teach your children to:
- Wash their hands for 20 seconds before coming in contact with food, and after handling raw food.
- Get a new spoon each time for “taste testing”
- Tie long hair back and roll up sleeves
- Knife safety – which knives the child can handle, and how to hold and use them.
- Stove safety: keep handles of pots and pans turned in towards stove so that young children cannot grab them.
Involving Children in Food Prep
While adults should be responsible for all contact with hot surfaces, including stoves and ovens, young children can help by:
- Washing fruits and vegetables
- Rinsing dried or canned beans
- Measuring dried pasta, beans, vegetables
- Adding premeasured ingredients to recipes
- Rinsing dishes
- Setting the table
Older children can help you cook by doing all the above plus:
- Peeling and slicing
- Following simple recipes
- Washing and rinsing dishes
- Forming raw bread rolls, meatballs, cookies, etc.
Teaching about Nutrition
While you menu plan, shop, and cook, you can talk to your child about what our bodies need and how the food we consume helps us grow and stay healthy. A good rule of thumb is to encourage your child to eat the “colors of the rainbow”.
Red: Red foods provide Vitamin C, lycopene, folate and flavonoids. They make our hearts strong and help improve our memory, as well as boosting our immune system. Includes: apples, strawberries, tomatoes, red bell peppers, red onion, cabbage, cherries, watermelon, grapefruit, guava.
Orange/Yellow: Orange and yellow foods provide Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene. These help our eyes and heart stay healthy and boost our immune system. They also help keep our teeth and skin healthy! Includes: carrots, mangos, oranges, papaya, peaches, bananas, pineapple, butternut squash, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricot, lemons, corn.
Green: Green foods provide Vitamin K, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and omega-3 fatty acids to help us have healthy bones, teeth and eyes! They also help heal cuts and scrapes by clotting the blood! Includes: spinach, broccoli, bok choy, cucumber, green peppers, green beans, avocado, Brussels sprouts, kale, green herbs.
Blue/Purple: These foods provide anthocyanin (for memory and heart health), as well as Vitamin C and flavonoids among other nutrients. Includes: eggplant, purple cabbage, beets, purple asparagus, purple carrots, plums, blueberries, blackberries, currants, grapes, elderberries, prunes, raisins
White: Healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels. Includes: garlic, onions, mushrooms, ginger, cauliflower, leeks, daikon radish, parsnips, white potatoes.
Check out this list of healthy foods kids can make! Other ideas: granola bars, popsicles, no bake cookies, fruit salsa, hummus (peanut butter hummus, anyone?), snack mixes, fruit skewers with yogurt dip, bagel pizzas, breakfast burritos, pancakes, overnight oatmeal, chia pudding, turkey meatballs, guacamole, oatmeal banana cookies, sloppy joes, turkey meatloaf, oven baked chicken nuggets, no bake energy balls, muffin tin quiches and frittatas, banana muffins, and just for fun: mug cakes!