As we start the new year, eating healthier is usually high on our list of resolutions. On this week’s On Call for All Kids, Anita Jimenez, Culinary Nutrition Program Coordinator for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital offers tips on how to get the kids involved in the menu selection and meal preparation.
It’s every parent’s dilemma: How do you get kids to eat their vegetables?
In our Allkids in the Kitchen family cooking classes, I like to remind parents that we all eat with our eyes and noses first, before we actually taste the food. So, making the food we eat colorful and appealing, and cooking the food in our own kitchens with enticing aromas will help children want to taste new foods.
As parents, we also need to make sure we don’t impart our own food prejudices on our children. Most children we call “picky eaters” have simply not been exposed to, or encouraged to try, unfamiliar foods at an early age. It helps if parents and children can go on the culinary journey together by learning how to make the foods taste delicious – because vegetables are, in fact, delicious when prepared the right way!
Also, we know through research that when children are involved in the cooking process they are more likely to try the foods they prepare.
How can parents involve the kids in cooking?
Even very young children can be involved. Greens and herbs can be torn instead of chopped so that’s a good job for little ones, as well as squeezing limes and lemons. They also love pushing the buttons on a blender or food processor. Starting kids with plastic knives will allow them to safely practice on softer vegetables like zucchini and avocado or fruits like bananas and mangos before moving on to sharper tools. Tweens and teens are capable of cutting harder vegetables and using other kitchen tools like graters, peelers and slicers. Believe it or not, I almost always have at least one teen in my class who has never used a can opener! And of course, all ages like to use measuring spoons and cups, which also has the advantage of reinforcing math skills.
Cooking together is also a great way to have quality family time that gets everyone away from their screens!
What about when family members all like different foods?
I think the trend in “bowl” foods is a great way to address different likes and dislikes. Having a base of a whole grain or greens and topping it with a protein and a variety of vegetables makes it easy for everyone to choose what they like, while also trying a little bit of a new food item. And making it at home is certainly a lot less expensive than taking a gang through the line at a build-your-own restaurant.
What if the parents don’t know how to cook?
We offer free cooking classes throughout the year, currently from our virtual kitchen studio. Taking a healthy cooking class together as a family and ending up with a delicious dinner is a great way to spend an evening. Registration for classes can be found on Eventbrite – search for Allkids in the Kitchen to find current opportunities.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.