Kids are notoriously picky eaters, and getting them to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet can be challenging. Learning how to cook healthy with kids means making meals that taste good, are low-fat and full of fresh, nutritious foods. Mealtimes shouldn’t be a battle, and both cooking and eating together should be a pleasure. Try some new ideas and new strategies to cook healthy with kids and have everyone like the meal you prepare.
How to Cook Healthy with Kids
Bring the kids into the kitchen. This is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating with your children. Kids can learn to like healthy food if they learn to cook healthy food. Even a very young child can wash and tear salad greens and help with simple mixing and stirring chores. An older child may be able to cook a healthy meal from start to finish. Involve children in grocery shopping and planning to help them learn to make healthy food choices.
Try a variety of foods, prepared in different ways. Try roasting vegetables with a bit of olive oil and sea salt to increase their natural flavor and sweetness. Orange vegetables, including sweet potatoes and butternut squash, may be a hit when served with a bit of butter and cinnamon. Offer dips of all sorts to make raw veggies more appealing. Allow children to look through cookbooks or cooking magazines and choose dishes occasionally.
Hide healthy foods for kids in foods they already love. Several cookbooks on the market today use this strategy, including Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious. Steam vegetables and puree. Store in small containers or freeze in small amounts. Add butternut squash to macaroni and cheese, hide pureed cauliflower in the mashed potatoes, and sneak spinach into a black bean burrito. While this will not help encourage your children to try a wider variety of foods, it can improve the overall nutrition of a picky eater and make it easier to cook healthy with kids.
Serve children the adult meal as much as possible. Avoid the trap of feeding kids chicken nuggets, fries and baby carrots when mom and dad are eating curry. You may need to lower the spice level or offer meal components separately; however, helping your children expand their palates when they are young is one way to ensure that you can cook healthy with kids.
Encourage kids to try foods more than once. A previously hated food may be liked in a different preparation or simply on a different day. Some children need to try a food more than once to learn to like it. A one-bite rule can work in some households and for some children. A very picky child may need to first learn to tolerate having a food on his plate, licking it or smelling it before he is ready to taste it.
- Be sure to allow for true dislikes.
- Avoid joining the clean plate club to create lifelong healthy eating habits.