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April 18, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 1

8 Fun Ideas For Raising Little Chefs

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

I am incredibly grateful to have a job that brings me out into the community to share my passion with adults and children alike. Through cooking demonstrations and nutrition classes, I am able to do what I love while hopefully shedding a positive light of inspiration out into the audience.

Lately I have been working with families and their kids never cease to amaze me. Though I'm not sure what's picky eaterrunning through their minds, they often seem to be watching me like a hawk. I speculate that they're either wondering what I'm about to cook or it's more along the lines of, "What the heck is that purple plant you're holding?"

My instinct is the latter as the lack of food knowledge seems to be on the rise. More and more, I run into kids that have no clue that food comes from anywhere but the supermarket shelves. Further, without this awareness, they do not recognize the relationship between eating healthy food and having the energy to run and play. With home economics and nutrition courses no longer in our school, I feel like it is up to us – as parents, caregivers, and people who care about the health of future generations – to teach them.

If we don’t tell them where their food comes from, who will?

As a self-confessed foodie I am always excited to teach anyone willing to listen about the food on their plate. I am absolutely intrigued by the back-story each ingredient has - it’s biography from farm to fork, if you will.

Bridging this knowledge gap and showing people how to use a vivid piece of produce has become one of my favorite pastimes. While it may not surprise you that, as cooks for their families, most adults are interested to learn more about making food (especially when its free!), let's not forget the kids! Children can be just as excited about food in action!

This is great news, as research has found, is that the more involved kids become in the mealtime process (grocery shopping, gardening, harvesting, and cooking), the more likely they are to try the new food and (gasp!) enjoy it!

little chefMakes sense, right? Imagine that you have just finished helping a friend to whip up a recipe chock-full of foods that you've never tried. Once it is prepared and ready to be served, do you feel a sense of pride in your accomplishment? Wouldn’t you be more inclined to try this new dish, no matter how different it looks, just to find out if you did good or not? I know I would!

Instilling A Love and Knowledge of Food in Your Kids

For those of you thinking that there is simply not enough time in the day to have your kids help out in the kitchen, I understand where you are coming from. Cooking with kids is not as simple as cooking alone. Many times things get messy and lackadaisical faces make an appearance. But even if your kids choose not to actively participate, they are usually watching from the sidelines. Here are just a couple ideas for increasing your children's food knowledge:

  1. Choose Simple Tasks for Them. If you’re facing a particularly busy night, perhaps give your child a simple task such as tossing the salad or setting the table.
  2. Plan a Weekly Family Cook Night. If week night meals are just too chaotic, wait until the weekend and make a weekly event out of it!
  3. pick your own strawberriesHit The Local Scene. Take a family trip to the farmer’s market.
  4. Pick Your Own. Visit a fruit farm where you can pick your own sweet treats.
  5. Start a Garden. Plant a veggie garden together – even a solo pot will do!
  6. Let Them Help With Planning. It may also be helpful to invite your child into your meal planning routine. Allow him or her to select the foods for dinner one night each week after establishing a couple of ground rules such as including a green or orange vegetable and lean protein each time.
  7. Pick Up Some Foodie Books. To settle down after a long day on the farm or in the kitchen, curl up with a good book – foodie style. Choose a book to help your children learn more about their food and where it comes from. A couple of my favorites are “Make Me a Peanut Butter Sandwich and a Glass of Milk” by Ken Robbins and “Milk From Cow to Carton” by Aliki.
  8. Watch a Foodie Documentary. Or check out the documentary film, "What's on Your Plate?" for an intriguing story about food as told by two young girls in New York City. Whatever you choose, your kids will feel proud as they become more involved in the process, hopefully resulting in happier, healthier eaters.

Everyone deserves to learn what purple cauliflower taste like, how to transform it into a delicious risotto, and how to do it all within your budget. With this knowledge you will not only be helping your children develop a healthy relationship with their food, you will also reduce the risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes. 

Just think - maybe one day the kids will be cooking for YOU. Wouldn’t that free time alone be worth the effort? ;)

Photo Credit

All in Green, cproppe,

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  • Totally agree! If we are what we eat, I want to make sure my daughter has the all the knowledge she needs to make smart, healthful diet choices! I need to remember that she can do more things for herself now. She's 9. She can make herself a sandwich. She can spread butter on the toast at breakfast, she's even learned to scramble an egg! :) Unfortunately, I've taught her SO well, she corrects me on my choices sometimes. "Mommy! No more salt! That's bad for your heart!" haha

  • Erin, it certainly sounds like you are doing a fantastic job helping your child grow up with a very healthy food mentality :) Good for you!!!

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