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How to be a Meadow Gold Mom

Cooking with Kids

In today's time-crunched world there's little time to cook dinner and help your kids with homework after a long day.

One way to spend quality time with your kids and make sure they eat a healthy dinner is to get them to help you fix the meal. You'll get some help in the kitchen, and your kids will learn valuable lessons in nutrition from their favorite teacher — you.

Habits formed early largely determine how children will behave later in life. This is why it is important to instill healthy attitudes and habits regarding food, early on. According to a recent article in the Journal of Preventive Medicine, the number of overweight children is on the rise and there has been a significant increase in the consumption of pizza, burgers, and salty snacks in adolescents as well as younger children.

While you may not have much control over what your child eats when he/she is away from home, it's up to you to give them the knowledge about what is healthy and what isn't. Set a good example at home. Teaching your child about nutrition will better equip him/her to make good decisions that can help them live a long and healthy life.

Here are some tips to get cooking with your kids:

  • Allow your child to help you plan a meal. If you know you want to make pasta, let him/her decide whether it's spaghetti and meatballs or macaroni and cheese. Also, ask him/her what kind of side dish (like salad or corn on the cob) would go best.

  • Take your child shopping and let him/her pick healthy items. Show them how to compare labels and ingredients. They'll also learn math by comparing price differences.

  • Cooking time is also a great way to give "mini lessons" on history and culture. Tell your child about the dishes you loved as a kid, or about the different countries certain dishes come from. Food makes it easy to appreciate other cultures, and your children will be excited to eat exotic dishes they helped prepare. Italian pasta, Mexican burritos and Japanese sushi are all easy and fun to make.

  • Give small children their own workstation. Make it lower than the counter you use and provide plastic utensils so that they won't get hurt. Now, you can work side by side safely.

  • Plant a small garden so kids can harvest fresh vegetables or herbs for dinner.

  • Have your child rename his/her favorite recipe so it becomes their own. Then, they can help you cook it and serve it to the rest of the family.

  • Research suggests that lifelong food preferences are set within the first three years of life. Talk to your child about healthy alternatives to cookies and chips and let them put healthy, tasty snacks - carrot sticks, celery stalks with peanut butter, apple slices - into plastic bags or re-sealable containers so they are always accessible. Always have healthy snacks available and encourage your child to eat those instead of less nutritious options.

  • Let your child cheat once in a while as making certain foods off-limits may only make them want them more. It is OK to let your child have sweets, sodas and fast-food in moderation. Pay close attention to the frequency and amount of these foods you allow.

  • Have your child plan a complete meal from start to finish. He/she can help you make a plan with a main course, side dish and perhaps dessert, being conscious of the food pyramid and portion sizes. Then, help them find recipes, make a shopping list, accompany you to the store, help you with the mixing, stirring and cooking and, of course, clean-up.

  • Finally, lead by example. Children watch their parents and learn from "the real world." Parents with healthy lifestyles are more likely to have healthy kids. Children won't want to eat their veggies or exercise if they rarely see you doing it!

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