How to Encourage Healthy Eating: Involving Your Child in the Kitchen

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Children tend to enjoy eating foods that they helped create. Most kids go through a “picky eater” stage during which getting them to eat many foods , especially healthy ones, can be very challenging. During this phase, involving your child in creating their own fun and healthy snacks can make a major difference.

“Ants on a Log” is a fun snack idea that tastes great — plus it is extremely easy to make. Simply cut tender stalks of celery into sections about four inches long. Fill the hollow side with peanut butter, then have your kids place raisins in a line on top of the peanut butter. This is an easy snack for even very young children to make with a little help.

Kids can also help prepare a healthy lunch for themselves. There are many different possible variations of this recipe idea, and after you use it once or twice a few more ideas may pop into your head:

Using an English muffin or cut out rounds of toasted bread for a base, make mini pizzas by spreading marinara sauce on top. Allow your child to add shredded cheese and their choice of additional items such as small pieces of cooked chicken, turkey pepperoni, peppers or olives. Broil the mini pizzas in the oven for a minute or two to heat them up and melt the cheese, and you have a quick and healthy lunch for your kids to enjoy. You can use the same concept to create sweet treats by spreading cream cheese or peanut butter on the toasted bread or muffin, then helping your kids top them with their choice of fruit. Strawberries and blueberries work well, but virtually any type of fruit will work if you chop it up first.

The older your children are, the more complex the foods they can help you prepare. Pre-teens may enjoy helping you prepare food by measuring or mixing recipes under your supervision. This helps them learn skills they will need as an adult; at the same time, you can teach them how to choose healthy meals and ingredients that support good nutrition. Once they understand the basics of recipe preparation, you can allow them to prepare a simple recipe on their own. For example, boxed whole grain macaroni and cheese with reduced sodium is very easy to make and is actually quite healthy. Once they have prepared a few simple dishes successfully, you can guide them while they create more complicated recipes.

If you are a parent who works during the day, your child can help considerably with the evening meals. Older children can prepare fruit salads, vegetables and similar side dishes to go with the meal, for example. Not only is this a good experience for them, but it can be a significant time savings for you.

There are many potential advantages to allowing your child to prepare their own healthy snacks and to help with everyday food preparation. Perhaps the most important of these is guiding them in learning the basics of good nutrition and develop the ability to someday create delicious, healthy meals and snacks for themselves and their families.

Post contributed by Samantha Harvey, on behalf of Winkbingo.