Child Health, Nutrition and Fitness Seth Stratton | 6 years ago

Letting Kids Help with Meals Can Expand Their Taste Buds

Want your child to be more willing to try new foods? Let them pick, plan, prepare and present their favorite holiday recipes.

Think about those magical times as a child when you may have been allowed to help out in the kitchen as the food was being prepared. You may not have known it, but the variety of ingredients, flavors and smells you were exposed to can lead you to try new foods. There’s a tremendous opportunity for parents and caretakers take the time to invite children into the food selection and preparation process. Modeling healthy behaviors, teaching cooking skills and strengthening relationships with children can empower them to help select, prepare and present food.  Here are some things to think about as you plan for the holidays:
  • Pick it: Let your child/children pick out their favorite recipe. Ask them to make a list of ingredients that are needed.
    • Ask them to consider how to change to recipe to make it a little healthier. Use applesauce in place of vegetable oil for baked goods, or substitute plain, non-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream.
    • Add a vegetable to the side dish/casserole.
    • Allow them to help pick out the items from the market that are needed for the recipe.
  • Plan it: Add time to your holiday preparation timeline to allow for a relaxed atmosphere to work together.
    • How much time is needed to prepare the recipe?
    • Can anything be done ahead of time?
    • Do you have the appropriate tools that children can use under supervision (cutting boards, apple slicers, smaller knives, and non-skid mixing bowls)? You can always use a damp towel under a mixing bowl or cutting board to help it from sliding.
  • Prepare it: Adding a little formality to the preparation can put children more in the “mood” to participate.
    • Do you have any extra aprons, special “chef” hats, bandanas that they could adorn themselves with as they embrace the role of chef?
    • Do you have a stepping stool that helps them reach things better on the kitchen counter?
    • Once you have set the stage for your young assistant, there are many tasks that they can accomplish independently. Let them wash and peel vegetables, snap the ends off fresh green beans, mash potatoes, measure dry ingredients, crack eggs, mix ingredients together, sprinkle on the finishing touches/toppings, be in charge of the timer for the oven and watch baking items to make sure they don’t burn. Make sure to compliment them as they work on their culinary skills. Perhaps you can pretend that you are being videotaped for a cooking show and talk through the whole preparation process.
  • Present it: Think about how to display the food to make it as picture-perfect as possible.
    • Does it belong on a platter?
    • Are there some small fruits, sliced vegetables or fresh herbs that could be used to add color, flavor or create a special design?
    • Can the item be cut up into special shapes?
    • Are there fun cups to serve the item it?
    • Are there special table decorations that could be created like name cards, napkin rings or a handmade centerpiece?
    • Once the food is displayed and plates are being filled with these wonderfully prepared items, identify the dishes that the children helped to create. Allow each child to discuss the flavor of these “featured” items (only allowing compliments to be shared). Express thanks for their help and talk about how much you enjoyed sharing time with them preparing for the special meal.
You will find that children are more willing to try foods that they have helped to prepare, even if they involve vegetables, fruits or other ingredients that they may not have been exposed to before. Giving them opportunities to share responsibility with food selection and preparation builds their self-esteem and helps them develop confidence and skills to prepare healthy meals. The following article was written by Elaine Jones, RDN, LDN, Clinical Nutrition Manager, Carolinas HealthCare System University