Raising Healthy Kids

5 Ways to Cook with Your Kids (& Why You Should)

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Eating nutritious foods is one of the best ways to live a healthy lifestyle, but as many parents know, getting kids excited about food that is good for them can be a challenge. Halle Saperstein, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health System, encourages parents to let kids get involved with making a meal so they can learn to be more adventurous in their eating.

“The things we put in our body at a young age set us up for eating habits in the future,” Saperstein says. “When kids start off eating healthy foods early, then they are better educated on what they should be eating when they are an adult.”

The thought of having your kids helping out in the kitchen might be the last thing you want to do, but it gives them an opportunity to touch and smell ingredients and expose them to foods they aren’t familiar with. Here are a few suggestions to help get them involved in preparing a meal with you:

  1. Let them pick out recipes. Have colorful, healthy cookbooks of easy recipes on hand and ask your child to look through them and find a meal or two that looks interesting. With multiple kids, consider getting colored Post-it notes so each kid can select the recipes they like. When it comes time to cook, have the kid/kids who picked that recipe help you make it.
  1. Take them grocery shopping. Not only does this teach kids about the process of putting together a meal by purchasing ingredients, but it also gives them exposure to items in the grocery store. Allow them the opportunity to try healthy foods that they may not have seen or heard of before.
  1. Teach them where things go. Have kids help put groceries away when you get home. They can learn what types of foods need to be kept in the fridge and which foods can stay out. The same can be said for unloading the dishwasher. By learning where pots and pans are stored, kids develop kitchen organization skills that can help them when they are older.
  1. Assign them small tasks. Let your child stir a pot, help you chop or measure ingredients, or wash fruits or vegetables. Make sure that every task you assign is always supervised. This can be a great opportunity to teach kids cooking techniques that they can use in the future.
  1. Encourage taste testing. Not only does this keep your child involved in the cooking process from beginning to end, but they get to taste the meal that they helped to make!

Besides cooking, there are other ways that parents can encourage kids to try new foods. Saperstein suggests parents use the “don’t yuck my yum” mindset. All kids are different, and some may like foods that others dislike and vice versa. “Don’t yuck my yum” teaches kids to not discourage others from eating a particular food just because they don’t like it.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital’s Demonstration Kitchen offers a variety of kids cooking classes. Check out the schedule at henryford.com/DK or call (248) 325-3890 for more information and to register.

Halle Saperstein, RD, is a clinical dietitian at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and enjoys teaching kids about healthy eating and nutrition.