I recently picked up a great book at the library called 44 Things Parents Should Know About Healthy Cooking For Kids. It’s written by none other than Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper who is the winner of FOX TV’s Hell’s Kitchen Season 3. Chef Rock is also the National Celebrity Chef for the March of Dimes. You wouldn’t think that someone could come up with that many interesting tips on healthy cooking tips for kids but he did. The nice thing about this book is that it is small, short and to the point. You could actually read it in a day easily or you could take a few tips here and there and incorporate them into your own lifestyle.
SOME OF THE TIPS FOR HEALTHY COOKING FOR YOUR KIDS
Bring back family cooking and family dining. This can’t be stressed enough. Throughout the book you get the theme driven home but it’s a good theme. Driving through a fast food joint isn’t really healthy eating. Sure, it’s okay once in a while but on a regular basis, you’re sending the wrong message to your kids. You’re also encouraging poor eating habits when they grow older to make their own decisions.
Make cooking and eating fun. Early on, teach your kids about healthy eating habits and how to make things from scratch. Let them do some of the work no matter how small. Even if it’s washing and drying the fruit and you cut it up afterwards, it sends the message that as a family, you gather, you prepare and you eat food that’s good for you. Encourage your kids to search out recipes and then even show them how to make them healthier. Substituting oat flour for instance or unbleached flour for all or part of a recipe encourages your child to learn more about food. This will encourage him or her stick with healthy eating habits later in life.
Kids need choices but they also need to eat certain foods. Here’s a novel idea for these times. Kids don’t get to decide what they will and won’t eat. It seems to be a different culture these days where children are allowed to make many choices for themselves. Within reason, Chef Rock advocates that your kids should be expected to eat some of the foods that are not their absolute favorites. If they don’t eat them the first time, they may see them come back at the next opportune mealtime. So last night’s peas they didn’t want to eat show up for lunch the next day. This does help with getting kids to try things that they otherwise might get away with passing up because they just “think” they don’t like it without really trying it.
Check out your child’s school menu and make sure it’s as healthy as they claim. Many schools are being found guilty of serving our children nothing but sugar and salt laden “garbage” that they claim meets the standard daily dietary requirements. Check out the school menus sometimes. It is sad to think so many children have to rely on school food to supply most of their daily food intake. Shouldn’t it be healthy then? Make sure you know what your child is eating if you are letting him or her eat at school and if the meals are not nutritionally adequate, talk to your school board or someone about making sure that the meals your child receives are nutritionally sound. There is no substitute for healthy bones and muscles. Once they develop, you can’t go back and infuse the right foods to make up for poor nutrition. Take a stand to ensure that your child is getting proper nutrition if they are eating at school.
Make your own. Encourage your kids to join in the responsibility of making food not only for mealtimes but also for snacks and for school lunches. Make picnic lunches and take them to your favorite park or just have a picnic in your living room. Show your children how to make quick and nutritious snacks and lunches so that they will know how to take care of themselves in the future when it comes to feeding themselves. Buying a pack of Twinkies, Pop Tarts, and bags of chips to stick in lunch sacks isn’t feeding your child properly. On the other hand, chopping up fresh celery and carrots, adding a homemade pumpkin muffin or a sandwich made with homemade lunch meat is.
MAKING CHOICES FOR HEALTHY LIVING
Parents today spend an exorbitant amount of money making sure their kids have the right clothes, they attend the right schools, and that they participate in the right activities. Shouldn’t making sure they’re eating the right foods be tops on our priority list? The only way you can truly do that is to get back to basics.
Remember that food and healthy eating habits will play an important role in your child’s success or failure in many walks of life. Be a great example for your kids by cooking often and making as many different types of cuisines as you can handle.
Teach your children about cooking techniques and about what foods go together. Show them by example how to shop, how to prepare food, and then how to present it so that it’s pleasing as well as nutritious.
Take the time to create food together and make it a bonding experience. Spend time lingering over small meals instead of big meals 3 times per day. Serve your kids everything under the sun so that he or she will grow up to embrace the world and its many faceted dining experiences.
Enjoy your time with your child over a homemade cup of cocoa, some freshly made chocolate chip cookies, or a plate of vegetable lasagna. It really doesn’t matter what the food is. All that matters is that you took the time to prepare it in a healthy manner and that you experience it with your kids.
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