As a registered dietitian who provides school meals to students throughout the year, I’m on a mission to expose kids who live in a chicken-nugget, french-fried world to delicious food made with fresh, identifiable ingredients.
And when kids are exposed to scratch-cooked meals at home and get involved in preparing meals, they’re more likely to make healthier choices outside your house.
Here are my five best tips to involve your kids in the kitchen.
1. Take them shopping.
The more kids are involved with how and what they eat, the more likely they are to try new, fresh foods. Bring your kids shopping with you and let them select the fruits and veggies they’d like to include in the meal.
2. Get cooking.
The more interactive and hands-on kids can be with their food, the better. Ask them to help by washing the fruits and veggies, stirring the sauce or batter, kneading the dough, or assembling their own tacos or burritos. The options are endless!
3. Get creative.
If your child doesn’t like fresh broccoli, try roasting it at a high temperature with olive oil, salt and pepper – it’s sweeter, and has a crispy texture that some kids really love. Not a fan of raw kale? Roast kale leaves with some olive oil and salt for a delicious and crunchy chip.
4. Expose them to new foods.
It’s important that kids are exposed to new foods several times – even if the food is met with resistance. In schools, when we expose students to new foods, like quinoa, we menu the item more than once.
5. Mix the unfamiliar with the familiar.
If your child is hesitant to step outside of their food comfort zone, make a mixed green salad incorporating spinach or baby kale with a more recognizable leafy green such as iceberg lettuce.
Our chefs combine iceberg, kale, jicama, and roasted cremini mushrooms for our “IJKLM” salad. As another example, pair arugula with blackberries, sliced cucumbers and fresh dill for an “ABCD” salad.
Try not to say you don’t like anything you want them to eat (I’m looking at you, green vegetables!). Cooking and eating together is the perfect opportunity to model healthy eating habits.
Here’s one of my favorite snack recipes that you can prep (and then enjoy) with your kids:
Black Bean Hummus with Green Pepper Triangles
I’ve put a Southwestern spin on hummus by swapping black beans for the chickpeas and triangle-shaped bell pepper slices for the pita chips.
Makes 4 servings
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
¼ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large green bell pepper, sliced in triangles
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Place all ingredients, except green bell pepper and cilantro, in food processor and blend until smooth.
Transfer dip to a small bowl. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Dip bell pepper triangles into hummus.
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Prep options: Raid the produce section to make this dip fun. Red bell peppers, as well as carrots and cucumbers, also make good dippers for this hummus.
Emily Burson, RD
Contributing AuthorFounder and president of School Nutrition Plus, Emily has been pushing the envelope of school dining since 2009. After managing school kitchens where the definition of cooking meant opening a box of frozen food and putting it in the oven, Emily’s relentless desire to serve kids real food and teach them where it comes from drove her to start SNP.