Empower kids with fresh foods rich with whole grains, new flavors, color and nutrients by inviting them into the kitchen to learn new skills. Family and consumer sciences educators offer the following tips for getting even the littlest diners to eat nutrient rich foods.
1. Ensure kids have a variety of fresh, quality, flavorful and nutrient-rich ingredients to help prepare.
It’s easier to cook and eat healthfully when your kitchen is loaded with fresh, whole ingredients and foods.
2. For culinary inspiration, go to the library and gather a few children’s cookbooks full of beautiful pictures and simple ingredients and instructions.
Planning your meals and snacks together with your children will help them to be more invested in eating the quality foods they have chosen. Regularly perusing cookbooks and recipes in magazines can also help your family stay away from food ruts. A great option is the illustrated cookbook, “Baking With Friends” available at http://www.homebaking.org/products.php
3. Make grocery shopping a family activity.
Let older kids write and monitor the list, read labels or practice their math skills with price comparing. Have them compare the costs if they DIY-bake a similar food at home! They’ll love stocking their own Power-Packed Pantry. Make it a fun activity!
This nearly guarantees a kitchen full of fruits and veggies, and since your child chose them, he or she will be more inclined to eat them.
6. Use all of the senses to interest kids in food variety, including their sense of humor.
Let them help in food preparation. Not sure what to have young children do? Check out The Thrill of Skill at www.homebaking.org. Create foods in colorful, funny or enticing ways. For example, color your pancakes purple with pureed berries, shape your sandwiches, or make silly faces with condiments on your burgers. These simple efforts create a safe way for kids to feel “adventurous in the kitchen,” a skill they can continue to build upon to battle normal picky eating instincts.
7. Let children chop, dice or mash fruits and veggies to add into favorite recipes. There are a lot of great cook books out there now with ideas.
Just remember to put the fresh or frozen form in front of your kiddo too. Try these delicious Sweet Potato Muffins from the Home Baking Association: http://www.homebaking.org/recipes/sweetpotmuff.html
8. When all else fails, try and try again. Science has shown us that familiarity breeds liking.
Take a long-term perspective and assume you’ll need to expose your children to a food 10 times before they will try it, 10 more times before they take a real bite, and 10 times after that before they like it. Patience and persistence will eventually pay off.
If a child isn’t forced to choke down something they hate, they’re more likely to give it another try in the future. Make portions offered ¼ to ½ of an adult serving—adult servings being ½ cup, 1 oz., and other not-pumped-up serving sizes. Sit down together to enjoy food rather than unconscious eating in front of a TV or movie.
10. The ultimate goal is to empower kids to learn that they are someone who loves and can prepare great foods!
□ Grains: Enriched and whole cornmeal and all-purpose and bread flour; whole wheat flours–red or white wheat pastry and higher protein wheat flours; variety flours–brown rice, sorghum, barley and more; baking mixes; rolled wheat, barley, oatmeal; wheat germ, oat bran, flax meal (See http://www.homebaking.org/members)
□ Fats: Butter, vegetable oil, nuts, peanut butter, flax meal
□ Fruits: Apples, bananas, frozen berries, oranges, pineapple
□ Leavening: Baking powder, baking soda, active dry yeast
□ Protein: Reduced fat cheeses, eggs, fresh and dried milk, nuts
□ Sugar and spice: Agave and corn syrup; granulated, brown, and coarse sugars; sweet and savory spices
□ Veggies: Carrots, sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin and tomato, onion, garlic, zucchini; fresh herbs
By Pamela Ellgen
Pamela Ellgen is an award-winning journalist and certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She graduated with a B.A. from Washington State University where she studied writing. Ellgen is the author of the family cookbook, Modern Family Table.