Cooking Made Fun and Healthy for Kids
Great and simple ideas that will make your child fall in love with healthy meals!
It’s not rare for kids to hate eating vegetables, especially when they find out there are greens in their food. I had the same dilemma with one of my daughters. Charlotte loves playing sports but hates eating greens. I’ve been worried about her health for the longest time because I know that her activities require nutritious meals, and she’s turning 10 in a few months. Then, I recently found out she loves helping me out when I cook. I noticed a few months ago that she’s always snooping around the kitchen and it gave me an idea: why not use her fascination in cooking to make her eat vegetables? Here are some simple tips:
Work on what they want
I used to be the one in charge of deciding on what to eat. This might be the reason I end up forcing the kids to finish their meals. I realized that when someone doesn’t want something, they simply have no interest and won’t care at all. Asking what they want to eat in advance lets me plan our meals, and think of ways so I can turn it into something healthy.
Think of a spin-off
Now that you know what your kids want, take it from there. Come up with a healthy vegetable meal that will complement it. For example, if they want chicken nuggets for lunch (yes, let them have chicken nuggets if that’s what they want), adding carrot and cucumber sticks with a dip they love is a good idea. And then, at the dinner table, encourage them to eat a stick of either carrot or cucumber for every nugget they eat.
Play with textures
To parents of kids who really hate and despise vegetables, giving them options might do the trick. Some kids might like crunchy, starchy, or slimy vegetables, so make sure to give them assortments. Kids are also not expected to eat a vegetable they’re not used to at once. I think I had to serve 12 dishes with cabbage before I got my child to eat cabbage. They’ll check it out first, tinker with it, and then try eating it. It takes time, but it sure is worth the try.
Let them do the shopping
Personally, I consider our grocery trips as one of our bonding activities. I’m pretty sure my kids think the same as well because I can feel them enjoy walking the aisles, especially when near gigantic meat and nugget freezers. Leaving the market list with them also makes shopping a lot easier.
Let them help around
In the kitchen, let your kids help you prepare and cook. Reading cookbook instructions and preparing ingredients are basic stuff your kids will be very much able to handle on their own. Charlotte loves chopping, though I had to give strong precautionary warnings when she holds the knife. She also loves sautéing at first but gives up immediately after the broth has been poured. If you know your child can handle it, don’t be afraid to let them take over.
Don’t stick with the greens
Stop with force-feeding lettuce, peas, and spinach. Most kids can associate vegetables with greens. There are other vegetable staples that can kick-start their healthy diet such as red bell peppers, carrots, turnips, eggplants, and pumpkin.
Be creative and innovative with your food choices. Eating healthy doesn’t mean sticking with steamed meals and bland tastes. It’s important to present vegetables and healthy meals as enjoyable and fun as you can, because the eating experience makes all the difference.
Parents and caregivers are learning the cooking, budgeting, and decision-making food skills they need to get the most out of federal food and nutrition programs through Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program. Cooking Matters participants learn to shop strategically and use practical nutrition information to guide their food choices and cook healthy, delicious meals.
Download the Cooking Matters App
The Cooking Matters mobile app includes:
- 90+ chef-developed healthy, affordable, delicious recipes with colored photos
- Category filters including one-dish meals, kid-approved, diabetes friendly, 30-minute meals, and seasonal dishes
- Nutritional information on all recipes
- Money-saving tips for grocery shopping
- An opportunity to take the No Kid Hungry pledge and stay connected with No Kid Hungry!
Available on the iTunes App Store, or in Google Play!