When our kids are small, our job as parents is to cook and serve healthy, nutritious meals that will help them grow. As they begin to grow, however, our job changes and we need to teach them how to prepare their own meals so that they are adults who can eat healthy foods instead of relying on processed fast or frozen foods. It can be hard to know how to do this. Sometimes it feels easier to cook the meal yourself, rather than try to find ways to let the kids help.
Foods like casseroles and soups are quick and easy one-dish meals, but they don’t leave much room for help. Instead, look for foods that will allow you to show the kids what to do, and then gives them the freedom to make their own. Let’s look at some examples.
There are a lot of options for breakfast that allow you to teach before supervising. Bacon and pancakes are great together and are the perfect opportunity to teach and oversee the kids. First, choose from one of the many diet-specific pancake mixes available. Then, show them how to mix the pancake batter, make a few pancakes for yourself, and then let them make their own.
Follow a similar path with the bacon. Start with the purchase selection; the best quality bacon tends to come from farms where the animals were ethically raised and undergo minimal stress. Such sources are less dependent on medication to keep livestock healthy, and the meat is therefore not as tainted as that originating from more industrialized pig farms. When it’s time to cook the bacon, make a few slices for yourself, and then let your kids make their own just like the pancakes.
Breakfast sandwiches with a fried egg, a slice of ham, and some cheese on an English muffin or biscuit is another great teach-then-do option. Cutting up fresh fruit for a fruit salad is also quick and easy.
Lunches tend to be quicker, easier meals for many families since it’s in the middle of the day and we’re often so busy.
Sandwiches tend to be a go-to for most families come lunchtime, and there are lots of ways you can change them up. Consider:
· Swapping white bread for whole grain
· Making pita pocket sandwiches
· Hot sandwiches vs. cold (including how different a cold sandwich can taste if it’s toasted)
· Using a large lettuce leaf in place of bread
Sandwich fillings are very versatile, too. Deli meats are not your only option. The types of sandwiches most kids are willing to eat include tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad, meatballs, tofu or bean sprouts are all great options. Swap peanut butter for almond or sunflower butter and switch up the grape jam for some raspberry or apple butter. Look for sugar-free versions to make things healthier.
By the end of a long day, you usually just want to get dinner done and on the table. You’re hungry, tired, and cooking with the kids seems like too much, especially if there is one or more picky eater in the family. But there are some great, easy options that are fun and will get dinner on the table fast.
Try having a make-your-own-pizza night. The kids will love choosing their own toppings and watching the cheese melt in the oven. You can do a similar theme with quesadillas, letting everyone choose beef or chicken. Let the kids help you prepare taco or burrito meat, and then everyone can make their own tacos or burritos. Older kids can cut up fresh veggies to snack on while dinner’s cooking or to be steamed as a side dish.
The great thing about teaching kids to cook is that even the pickiest eater is more likely to eat because of their involvement. Teaching kids about food health is critical to their health now and as an adult. Challenge them to find healthy recipes for the whole family. You’ll soon find that cooking with the kids is much more fun than cooking alone.