Youth in the kitchen

Advantages for getting kids involved in the kitchen.

Recently my daughter had a friend over and as we worked together making various dishes in the kitchen. We talked about our favorite kinds of food to make, and my daughter was quick to rattle off a number of items. But, her friend’s response caught me off guard when she stated that she loves her grandma’s meals, but they are “the frozen kind” (for example, TV dinners). It didn’t take long to prepare the burger, salad and asparagus. The consensus was – everyone enjoyed the meal.

The next day the friends’ mom told me that her daughter wondered why they didn’t make more meals from scratch, because they tasted better and it was fun to do. Our society has become so focused on making everything convenient, easy and quick – including our food.

Making food from scratch is typically healthier, easy, fun, cheaper and educational – and it doesn’t have to take long. Including your child in the food prep process can be rewarding in many ways, including:

  • Spending quality time with your child, as it provides you and your child with one-on-one time that you otherwise may not utilize together.
  • Learning science and math. Learn fractions as you use measurements when doubling or dividing recipes; learn science as you watch the yeast rise.
  • Eating less processed food as you incorporate whole foods, such as whole wheat flour, fruits, vegetables and herbs into your recipes.
  • Watching your child eat healthier meals as they choose more fruits and vegetables – since they made it, they may be more likely to eat it.
  • Incorporating food safety as you teach these techniques during your cooking:
    • Handwashing
    • Avoiding cross-contamination
    • Proper cutting techniques
    • Cleaning and sanitizing
    • Learning how to cook as a life skill

You can find many healthy recipes online, as well as through cookbooks. Find great recipes and resources for working with kids in the kitchen through Nutrition.gov and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here is a nutritious, colorful and tasty recipe from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Rainbow Layered Salad

Ingredients

1 pint red grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 Hass avocados, pitted and sliced into thin wedges
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1 cup crushed blue corn chips
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a clear glass serving bowl, layer the tomatoes, carrots, frozen corn, avocados, red cabbage and blue corn chips in order. Let stand at least 15 minutes for corn to fully defrost.
  2. Make salad dressing by whisking together lime juice, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Serve salad with dressing on the side.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 cup of salad with dressing

Serves: 6

Calories: 285

Total fat: 21 grams

Saturated fat: 3grams

Cholesterol: 0 milligrams

Sodium: 229 milligrams

Carbohydrates: 27 grams

Fiber: 7 grams

Sugars: 11grams

Protein: 3grams

Michigan State University Extension provides online resources for working with kids in the kitchen and offers more information through community nutrition classes and Michigan 4-H. Contact your local MSU Extension for more information. Take some time with your child and have them help you with meal planning, shopping and cooking as a way to motivate them in taking charge of their health.

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