Kids in the Kitchen

posted in: CYJ Blog, Lifeskills, Meals

(Best of Celebrating Your Journey – August 25, 2006)

To all my readers: With 2019, the 14th year of my Celebrating Your Journey blog articles, “From the Heart” byline, I will be offering the “Best of the Best” articles you found helpful through the years. Many thanks to everyone who have given input and followed along w/ each month’s lifeskill—Relationships/Core Values, Time Mgt, Career/Money Mgt, Recordkeeping, Possessions, Housekeeping, Wellness, Meals, Childcare, Recreation/ Entertainment, Reflection, and Celebration. For my new readers, may these lifeskill articles offer you encouragement, insight, and commitment to seek, reach, and achieve your life dreams and goals in synergy.

Have your kids ever said, “Sure, I’ll make dinner tonight.” You applaud their enthusiasm and effort, but just can’t seem to swallow the last bite of the one and only entrée, macaroni and cheese sprinkled with corn chips! Although you definitely don’t want to discourage your kids from cooking in the kitchen, some type of cuisine guidance may be necessary.

As parent, you are their role model and primary teacher. Not only do you buy the groceries but you also want to help them make healthy choices for a balanced meal. KidsHealth organization, Nemour Foundation, offers your first steps toward creating meal time habits that can lead to a lifetime of healthy choices.

  • Have regular family meals.
  • Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
  • Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.
  • Avoid battles over food.
  • Involve kids in the process.

We all know your child or teen will probably not suddenly want a salad over his favorite french-fries. Yet, when you start them young eating healthy and watching you eat healthy, the chances are they may more likely continue making healthier choices.

There are some basic tips for each step that give you a better chance that your children will continue making healthier choices:

  • Family Meals—Family meals are a comforting ritual for both parents and kids. Kids who take part in regular family meals are also—
    • More likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains
    • Less likely to snack on unhealthy foods
    • Less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or drink alcohol

In addition, family meals give you the opportunity to try out new foods and find out which foods they do and don’t like (which is NOT necessarily the primary determinant for planning meals. Otherwise, you will probably get macaroni and cheese daily!).

Teens may not be too excited about family meals. Most would rather be with their friends and feel more independent, even with what they eat. Yet, according to KidsHealth “. . . teens still want their parents’ advice and counsel, so use mealtime as a chance to reconnect.” Here are some teen tips to make meal time together more fun:

  • Allow your teen to invite a friend to dinner.
  • Involve your teen in meal planning and preparation.
  • Keep mealtime calm and congenial – no lectures or arguing.
  • Serving a variety of healthy foods & snacks may not be on the top of the list for your kids. However, if you pay the bills and want to help them grow healthy bodies and minds, insure they have lots of good choices.
  • Be a role model by eating healthy yourself. Children are very smart and watch what you do even more than what you say. So eat healthy and show that you love it; and maybe the kids will actually love it too as an adult. One can always hope. Just keep doing the right thing. You will be glad you did.
  • Avoid battles over food should be the daily mantra for every family at the dinner table. If meal time becomes a time for a free-for-all argument, you can pretty much guarantee the kids will grow up avoiding whatever you put on the table! So make it fun and congenial for all, please.
  • Involve kids in the process. Most young children, in particular, love to be right there where you are in the kitchen. Let them know they are welcomed, but safe at the same time. When your child is at an appropriate age, give them the shopping list and go with them to select the foods and prepare the meal; and shop for their packable lunch. At the store, help your child check out the food labels to begin understanding nutritional values. In the kitchen, “select age-appropriate tasks so your child can play a part without getting injured or feeling overwhelmed. And at the end of the meal, don’t forget to praise the chef. “ (KidsHealth)

Although these routines may not be easy as you try to juggle your busy schedule, the benefits far outweigh the initial extra effort. Unfortunately, it’s just too easy to grab fast food.

Try all this on a weekend to ease your family into these routines. Young kids will eat most anything that is available at home after school, particularly if it’s something they created.

So, stock up daily on healthy snacks and foods ready to eat—whole fruits and vegetables (aiming for the goal of 5 servings a day), yogurt, peanut butter and celery, whole-grain crackers and cheese. KidsHealth recommends these basic meal serving tips:

  • Lean meats and other good sources of protein, such as eggs, legumes, and nuts
  • Whole-grain breads and cereals so your child gets more fiber
  • Limit fat intake by avoiding deep-fried foods and choosing healthier cooking methods, such as broiling, grilling, roasting, and steaming
  • Limit fast food and other low-nutrient snacks, such as chips and candy (don’t completely ban favorite snacks; make them “once-in-a-while” foods
  • Limit sugary drinks, such as soda and fruit-flavored drinks. Serve water and milk instead (I personally prefer avoiding any sugar-laden sodas)

This weekend, take the opportunity to go grocery shopping with your kids and plan your weekend meals together. If age appropriate, have your child plan and make one meal himself, with you as his “cook’s assistant.” Have fun going through your healthy cookbooks with them. Have your child check out the KidsHealth website for healthy recipes to choose. Turn some music on both you and your child enjoy; and groove along with your junior chef!