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Kids in the kitchen. Creating bonding and education.

JoanBahr_thumbBy Joan Bahr, MS, RD, CDE Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Southwest Health

Cooking may soon be a lost art. More and more people are eating out; fewer high schools are offering cooking classes; and processed foods are everywhere. But there is still an opportunity for parents (and grandparents) to change this trend. Let’s get the children in our lives involved in meal preparation and cooking.

Remember our parents making meals for the family? We would seldom see frozen dinners, food mixes (just add water and cook), or boxed foods. Our parents and grandparents started with fresh foods like vegetables, potatoes, noodles, fruits, milk, and grains.

How can we bring back the art and health of home-cooking?  How about involving our children (and grandchildren) in the kitchen? The time together will build bonds and also teach cooking skills. Each child’s age will determine how involved they are in the making and baking of food. Memories made together will last a lifetime.

One guide from the Kids Eat Right website (kidseatright.org) offers this advice when involving kids in the cooking process:

  • Children ages 3-5: They are so excited to help in the kitchen and do need to be supervised closely. They may also have a short attention span. Skills for this age may include: using cookie cutters; rinsing fresh fruits/vegetables; clearing tabletops; mixing simple ingredients; and using a pastry brush to oil breads, vegetables or other foods.
  • Ages 6-7: As the fine motor skills are developing, they are able to complete more complex tasks. Skills for this age may include: cracking eggs; using a vegetable peeler; using a scissors to cut green beans; cleaning the seeds from a pepper; preparing instant pudding; or preparing lettuce for a salad.
  • Ages 8-9: Each child has special skills and talents, and each child is unique in the skills. Tasks suited to this age include: rinsing and cleaning vegetables; using a can opener; beating eggs; measuring and mixing dry ingredients; using a food thermometer; juicing citrus fruits; and pounding meat on a cutting board.
  • Ages 10-12: Even though this age can work independently, it is important to monitor their skills. Tasks to try: boiling pasta and vegetables; simmering ingredients on the stovetop; following a simple step-by-step recipe; slicing and chopping, and using the microwave.

We may all remember a “mistake” we made when learning to cook. One memory from my youth involved preparing a Halloween cake. When making the orange frosting, not knowing at the time what “confectioner’s sugar” was, I used regular granulated sugar by mistake. Needless to say, the cake was a failure. But as Albert Einstein’s saying goes “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Another saying says “Mistakes are sometimes the best memories.”

Proceed to have fun with your little ones – borrow them from friends or neighbors if needed – and create some memories and learning opportunities. Kids are so much fun!

Here’s a fun recipe to try at home:

Carrot Fries Recipe

French fries? Forget them and try these for way more antioxidants and fewer calories! They’re super easy to make, too.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of carrots
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Peel the carrots and cut them into strips about in ¼-inch thick and a few inches long.
  3. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray and spread the carrots onto it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake 15 minutes. Flip them over and coat them with a bit more cooking spray, salt and pepper; bake another 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/4 recipe – Serves 4 | Calories: 45; Total Fat: 0g; Saturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium: 370mg; Total Carbohydrate: 11g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 1g.

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