Getting kids to eat healthy food is a vexing problem for countless moms. With a steady diet of macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and fruit snacks, those little bodies can seem to reject healthier and more varied options! If you’re struggling with a finicky eater, one of the best things you can do is to get your child involved in cooking!
Before you roll your eyes and click that little x to close this article, hear me out. The data is clear that children are far more likely to try a new food if they’ve helped to prepare it. But having the kids in the kitchen doesn’t have to be a messy, time-consuming nightmare. Giving them simple, age-appropriate tasks to do when you’re prepping a meal or a snack can even be fun. What kid doesn’t love getting his or her hands dirty?
Here are several ways you can get your kids involved in cooking healthy foods that will make them far more likely to eat what’s on the table!
1 – Dress the part – Most kids love to dress up, so drag out those aprons and chefs hats if you have them. Their interest in this may wane as they grow older but the littlest ones love to look like a “real chef” while they’re in the kitchen. For what it’s worth, I still love to wear an apron when I’m cooking…and it keeps my clothes clean, too!
2 – Prep veggies – Let little ones shuck corn on the cob, wash beans, tear lettuce, use a butter knife to cut cucumbers and peppers, or spin the salad spinner. They love putting the ingredients together and often can’t help themselves from tasting here and there, too!
3 – Make fruit salad – Pick grapes off the stems, use a butter knife to cut up pieces of melon and strawberries, wash blackberries and blueberries…and of course, mix it all up in a bowl! Fruit salad is almost always a hit with children and when they make it themselves they’re even more likely to eat it.
4 – Stir those side dishes – Even something as simple as stirring the bowl of rice or pasta or mashed potatoes can make kids feel like they had a hand in creating the meal. If you let them mix in the seasonings, they’ll feel like a chef in training!
5 – Make a condiment tray – Kids are often more willing to try a vegetable or meat they would normally shun if you let them top it with a favorite condiment. Get a small tray or caddy and let them select a few condiments to bring to the table. I often say I don’t care if kids put chocolate syrup on that broccoli as long as they are eating broccoli! Let them have some fun with this. You may even find a few combinations you like (toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar on snow peas for example).
As the kids’ skills advance, you can give them bigger jobs in the kitchen, letting them take part in meal planning, grocery shopping, or using the oven or stove. Our national obsession with the Food Network is telling you something…our children are intrigued by cooking; letting them get their hands dirty just may get them excited about the very foods you want them to try!