Want Your Kids to Eat Healthier? Let Them Prepare and Cook Meals

Parent and child in the kitchen cooking together to eat healthier
Let your kids help decide what to eat. Your kids will be more conscious about what they’re eating and allows for healthy changes.

One of the best ways to encourage children to eat healthier may be to get them involved in the kitchen. Teaching kids how to prepare and cook meals makes it more likely they’ll choose healthier foods. Also, knowing how to cook is a valuable skill they’ll have for life. Of course, it’s important to always supervise children and teach them how to be safe in the kitchen.

Why This is Important

Childhood obesity is increasing to alarming rates. One major cause of this growing epidemic is our society’s dependence on super-sized portions of high-calorie fast foods. However, you may be able to stop this unhealthy trend in your own family by letting your kids help prepare some of the food they eat.

From Public Health Nutrition, one study of 5th grade students showed that kids who were involved in-home meal prep were more likely to enjoy fruits and veggies than kids who weren’t helping in the kitchen. Also, other research indicates that enrolling kids in cooking classes or programs can have a positive influence on their food preferences and eating behaviors.

Eat Healthier When All Ages Help

More Healthy Habits

UVA Health, Healthy Eating & Active Living (HEAL) and Kohl’s Cares have partnered together to offer children the opportunity to learn healthy habits. For kids in elementary school, learn more about our healthy fit programs.

Teach kids how to make foods they love with healthier ingredients, and they’re more likely to eat them. “Starting to incorporate vegetables into the daily routine early can provide huge, long term benefits,” dietitian, Elina Bank shares. You can adjust what kids do in the kitchen based on their age. Even very young children can help by washing fruits, vegetables or mixing ingredients in a bowl with a spoon. There are also no-cook recipes that can get kids eating healthier foods. Bank believes it’s also helpful to talk about cooking techniques, even if your child isn’t physically helping.

It’s also a good idea to let kids have some say in what goes on your grocery list. Give them a few healthy options and let them decide what makes the final cut. By doing this, they’ll feel like they choose what ultimately winds up on their plate.  You can also take them with you to a local farm or plant your own garden. This allows them to see where their food comes from to add to the excitement.

In Pinch for Time?

Bank suggests, “Cook in bulk and have your children help you portion out meals that will go in the freezer. After a few times of doing this, your freezer will be filled with portion controlled, nutritious meals that your children participated in creating- that are just as convenient.” The more you can get kids preparing the food they eat, the more likely you’ll set them up with skills they can use for a lifetime that promote healthier eating.

 

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