Interactive Cooking – Parents & Children
Good nutrition is important to people of all ages. Adult or child - everyone in every age range - should be incorporating a good variety of meats (or other substitutions for protein), whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy (substitutions acceptable here as well), and even a little “fat” (oils) in our diets. Yes - everything in moderation is actually important! For most of us, incorporating these foods (including the ones we may not be crazy about) gets the creative juices flowing, and can actually be fun and exciting (i.e. trying new recipes).
Most kids these days do not want to eat fruits and vegetables, or any healthy food for that matter, let alone get excited about it. As a parent/guardian, or the adult in the household, you feel obligated to drive good nutrition onto these little ones, even if they object. But how can we make trying new things, developing new tastes, and nutrition education, an actual fun and interactive activity, making life at home a lot smoother and more pleasurable?
Cooking With Your Kids
There are many ideas, resources, and opportunities available to us nowadays to include our children in advanced activities and environments. Encouraging responsible action begins at home and the kitchen is a great place to start! Children are proud of things they can make themselves, which we often see in childhood artwork. Food can be an art as well (think of all the colors!). With the present goal being to increase healthy consumption, think of it this way: children may actually consume more of *colorful* fruits and veggies, if they are a part of the cooking process where they can choose which “colors” are used in the recipe.
Benefits of Cooking With the Kids
· Willingness to try new foods (stemming from the willingness to try something they make themselves)
· More structure at home
· Less money spent on fast food/restaurants
· Reduced unhealthy, lone eating conducted outside of the home
· Increased family bonding through eating together (& less time spent in front of the TV!)
· Improved reading & financial skills (recipes, prices, etc.)
· Increased cultural awareness and interest
· Kitchen/cooking techniques and abilities (i.e. measuring ingredients)
· Strengthening of fine motor skills, for young children (i.e. stirring)
· Sense of inclusion by being involved in the selection, planning, shopping, organizing, & preparation
· Education of sanitation importance
· Building of self-confidence by “working with the grown-ups”
· Appreciation of others’ work that is put into making a nutritious meal
· Sense of accomplishment after such hard work
· Responsibility & mature behavior taught, through appropriate use of kitchen equipment
· Lifelong skill of cooking/being able to prepare one’s own food
· Improved, lifelong knowledge of nutrition
· Lifelong skill of making the right choices (at mealtime & beyond!)
Dinner Option: English Muffin Pizzas
These pizzas can be assembled by children of any age (though please be sure to **supervise the baking process**). By creating small individual pizzas, children are able to express individuality while still working together to create a meal as a family.
English muffins (whole grain if available)
1/8 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup pizza sauce (veggie, low sodium if available)
1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Extra pizza toppings (NOTE: Now is the opportunity to explore tastes and nutritious choices by using different and colorful toppings: sliced mushrooms, turkey-pepperoni, chopped green pepper, chopped red or green onion, pineapple chunks, lean ham, tomato, black olives, broccoli, etc.)
· Slice muffin into top and bottom halves. (**Adult assistance with slicing**)
· Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place muffin (sliced open into two halves) on a baking sheet.
· Spread ricotta cheese over the muffin (leaving a crust-like edge around the muffin).
· Spoon the pizza sauce over this cheese.
· Add desired toppings.
· Sprinkle mozzarella over the top.
· Bake 6-8 minutes. (Watch carefully to prevent burning!!)
Serving size: one muffin pizza (= two halves)
Per serving (using whole-grain muffin and not including extra toppings):
280 total calories, 14 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 637 mg sodium.
Dessert Option: Cinnamon Applesauce
Adults should slice the apples into small pieces/chunks. Children can assist with washing (beforehand) and peeling the skin off (after slicing). They can then put the pieces into a crock pot, add water and cinnamon, and then check periodically, with parental supervision, until the apples are soft. Upon removal, the soft pieces can then be mashed into a sauce (adult and child working together).
(NOTE: Health benefits of cinnamon - blood sugar regulation, neurological health promotion, reduced LDL cholesterol levels, ulcer prevention, reduced arthritis pain, possible reduction of cancer cell proliferation, vitamin/mineral content, eases menstrual pain, hormonal balance)