Parents and families lead busy lives and that can sometimes make healthy eating a bit of an obstacle, but there are easy ways to make food that’s healthy and delicious. Anita Jimenez, Culinary Nutrition Program Coordinator for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares ways to incorporate nutritious meals into the everyday hustle and bustle.
The parental dilemma: How do you get kids to eat their vegetables?
We all eat with our eyes and noses first, before we actually taste the food. Making the food we eat colorful and appealing and cooking the food in our own kitchens with enticing aromas will help children want to taste new foods. Most children we call “picky eaters” have simply not been exposed to, or encouraged to try, unfamiliar foods at an early age, so it’s also important parents don’t impart our own food prejudices on our children. It helps if parents and children can go on the culinary journey together by learning how to make the foods taste delicious and preparing them the right way.
How can parents involve the kids in cooking?
No matter the age, when children are involved in the cooking process, they are more likely to try the foods they prepare. Even very young children can be involved. Greens and herbs can be torn instead of chopped and squeezing lemons and limes are also a good job for little ones. They also love pushing the buttons on a blender or food processor. As kids get a little older, using plastic knives will allow them to safely practice on softer vegetables like zucchini, avocado or fruits like bananas and mangos before moving on to sharper tools. Tweens and teens are capable of cutting harder vegetables and using other kitchen tools like graters, peelers and slicers. Kids of all ages like to use measuring spoons and cups, which also has the advantage of reinforcing math skills.
What about when family members all like different foods?
“Bowl” foods are a great way to address different likes and dislikes. Having a base of a whole grain or greens in a bowl and topping it with a protein and a variety of vegetables makes it easy for everyone to choose what they like, while also tasting a new food item. Making it at home is also a lot less expensive than taking a gang through the line at a build-your-own restaurant.
What if parents don’t know how to cook?
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital offers free cooking classes throughout the year, currently from our virtual kitchen studio. Taking a healthy cooking class together as a family and ending up with a delicious dinner is a great way to spend an evening. Registration for classes can be found on Eventbrite – search for “Allkids in the Kitchen” to find current opportunities.
About the Author: Anita Jimenez has a passion for teaching kids and their parents how to form healthy eating habits by creating delicious, simple, cost-conscious meals. Her background as a chef-restaurateur and certified Florida educator, along with a BS in Exercise Science from the University of San Francisco give her a unique ability to blend culinary expertise and nutrition knowledge into a valuable teaching kitchen experience.