You have likely spent a lot of time in your kitchen lately. Making meals and snacks every day for you and your home team can add up to hours of prepping and cleaning. While temperatures outside rise this summer, take some of the heat off inside by getting your kids to help.
Not only will extra hands in the kitchen lighten your load, but your kids also will benefit far beyond the season. They will develop kitchen confidence and lifelong cooking skills and are more likely to eat healthful foods when they help prepare them. Plus, you get some quality hang-time together.
When to start?
It’s never too late—or too early—to start cooking with your kids. Toddlers can tear fresh herbs and use a rolling pin. Younger children can cut soft fruits with a kid-safe plastic knife, crack eggs, and pour wet ingredients. Older kids can measure ingredients, chop veggies, and scoop batter into muffin pans. And, all kids can set the table!
What to cook?
Children benefit from nutrient-rich foods, like vegetables, fruits, dairy, and whole grains. Veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and herbs are rich in antioxidants and fiber, as well as other important nutrients. Dairy foods, like milk, cheese, and yogurt, provide two nutrients most often missing in children’s diets: calcium and vitamin D. Both calcium and vitamin D are essential for developing healthy bones and teeth, and for optimal bone health later in life. In fact, bone health as an adult can be directly linked to calcium intake as a child. Consuming adequate dairy when young can help prevent osteoporosis as an adult.
Ready to get cooking? Whip up some of my favorites below and check out The Dairy Alliance’s Kids in the Kitchen online recipe booklet for more ideas.
Let your little ones make their own pizza with sauce, veggies, and mozzarella cheese on whole-grain pita bread or help them make these Mac and Cheese Casserole Cups.
Rima Kleiner, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and owner of Smart Mouth Nutrition. Passionate about good food and good health, Rima helps connect the two for individuals, families, companies, and the media.