Some of my fondest childhood memories are of time I spent in the kitchen cooking with my grandmother. I learned not simply how to cook, but also what to eat. My Nana was well ahead of her time when it came to eating healthy balanced meals and many of the habits I use today I learned from her. In addition, it was during these times in the kitchen that I learned the most about my grandmother and it helped form a bond between us and I “see” her in many of the health and wellness choices I make each day.
If you follow this blog regularly, you know I am a proponent of spending a few hours every week planning and preparing meals ahead of time, but meal prepping can take time away from family activities and it is for this reason that many of my clients avoid spending a few hours on the weekend preparing meals for the week ahead. Because meal prepping is an important habit when trying to achieve nutritional goals, I propose combining meal prep time with family time.
Start the meal prepping process by letting kids help set the menu for the week. Let them pick from a selection of recipes or even research new recipes online. Childhood favorites like pizza, tacos, or chicken fingers can be made with healthy ingredients. Ask your kids “surf the net” and create a little presentation about a certain food they selected or another nutritional topic. No matter what they come up with give them an A+ for effort. This keeps learning about nutrition a fun, positive experience.
Grocery shopping is a great way to teach children about good nutrition. Let children pick a particular color of fruit or vegetable to try for the week. Read nutritional labels with them and explain them in simple terms. Do not label foods “good” or “bad”, but rather explain what makes a certain food a better choice than another. For example, “This red apple is a better choice than fruit roll ups because it has vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients that help you be strong and healthy.”
Once your home and in the kitchen, let kids help with prepping the foods. Even small children can help wash vegetables, put chopped fruits into containers, stir ingredients or toss a salad. Older children may be able to help chop, measure, or even cook. Take this time to reinforce good nutritional habits like eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, eating slowly, and making healthy choices. Don’t get too serious, make it fun. Remember, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, so sing, dance, and tell silly stories to create a fun environment for kids. This not only teaches them that meal prepping is fun rather than work, but studies show this fun together-time enhances the flavor and nutritional quality of the food.
You do not need to do all of these suggestions, just try 2-3 of them or come up with your own ways to get your children involved in the meal planning/prepping process. What ever you do, keep it fun!
The kitchen is a great place to teach children basic nutritional lessons that will last a lifetime, but just Ike it was for my grandmother and I, it is also a terrific way to engage with your children, learn about them as individuals, and build a strong relationship.
Help inspire other readers by sharing some of the ways you get your children involved in healthy habit building in the “Comments” section below.
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Until next time, have a happy healthy day.