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Top 10 Reasons to Cook With Your Kids

Drew Browen

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Jun 24th, 2015

KIK

Plan the ultimate dinner date.

When kids are included in making meals at home, they are more likely to consider the portion size, the vitamins, and the nutrients in what they’re eating.  And when a family cooks together they also eat together!  This provides the perfect opportunity for parents to check in with their children during the dinner meal.  If you still need convincing, here are the top ten reasons you should welcome your kids into the kitchen.

1. An appreciation for real ingredients can help broaden the palate. Exposure to scratch cooking helps kids develop their palate and taste for fresh, wholesome ingredients.  The earlier kids are introduced to nutritious foods, the less likely they are to acquire a taste for processed foods.

2. Kids are more likely to eat what they make. What could be more than fun than eating your art project?  When kids do the cooking it creates a sense of ownership which results in fewer meal-time battles and more willingness to try new foods.

3. Meals prepared from scratch usually contain more nutrients. These meals also typically have fewer calories, chemicals and sweeteners than pre-packaged foods and restaurant meals.

4. Cooking together leads to natural discussion about nutrition. Your time together in the kitchen presents the opportunity to talk about nutrition and the impact that food choices have on the environment.  The more educated children are about food, the more likely they will listen to your suggestions to eat something healthy.

KIK

5. The earlier children learn how to cook, the sooner they will learn an essential life skill and develop confidence in and out of the kitchen. Kids thrive on feeling accomplished.  Cooking is an excellent way to boost self-worth and teach responsibility.  And, you’ll feel good knowing that your kids won’t be relying on vending machines and frozen dinners when they finally leave home!

6. Preparing meals together means quality time as a family. In a busy world of carpools, homework, and after-school activities, cooking together can provide a much needed opportunity to chat with your kids.

7. Putting a meal on the table helps to learn the value of planning.  With some guidance, kids can be involved in suggesting a menu, choosing ingredients at the store, and planning meals around them.

8. Cooking requires kids to practice good timing. Time management skills come in handy throughout life and it is never too early to learn them.

9. Planning and cooking a meal builds math and science skills.  Following a recipe means learning how to measure accurately, and it illustrates fractions in a practical way. Need to double your famous chocolate chip cookie recipe? That’s going to require multiplication or addition.
If your child is struggling to come up with a science fair project, look no further than your own kitchen. What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder? And what happens when you mix oil and vinegar? Cooking gives kids a chance to marvel at chemistry in the real world.

10. Build an appreciation for the chef. Putting a meal on the table is hard work. Being involved in meal preparation even once per week will help your kids appreciate a home-cooked meal, no matter who prepares it! For examples of family friendly recipes, video demonstrations, and a free starter family dinner toolkit check out The Kids Cook Monday initiative at www.thekidscookmonday.org.  The Kids Cook Monday initiative encourages families to set aside the first night of every week for cooking and eating together as a family. Try out the sample recipe below to get started next Monday!

 

MAC & CHEESE WITH BROCCOLI

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen broccoli florets
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups 2 % milk
2 cups reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. whole grain pasta, dry

Directions

Together: Cook pasta to your liking.

Adult: Melt butter in medium saucepan and add flour.

Together: Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, 2 minutes or until starting to brown.

Adult: Slowly whisk in milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.

Together: Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

Kid: With adult supervision, add cheese and cook until melted. Season, if desired, with salt and   pepper.

Together: Add macaroni and broccoli florets and heat through.

Nutritional Facts Per Serving

Calories: 391, Total Fat: 19 g, Saturated Fat: 12 g, Cholesterol: 53 mg, Sodium: 289 mg, Carbohydrates: 37 g, Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 19 g

Mac and cheese can be a nutritious option when it’s loaded with veggies! This recipe features broccoli “trees” packed in the cheesy goodness kids love. This recipe comes to us from our friends at Birds Eye.

Cooking Tip of the Week: Steam broccoli florets in the microwave rather than boil them to best preserve their nutrients. Place the broccoli in a microwave safe bowl, add a little water in the base of the bowl, and microwave for about 2-4 minutes or until tender.

Food for Thought: A roux (rue) is a French word that describes a mixture of fat (traditionally butter) and flour. It’s generally used to add richness and body to a dish. The addition of the roux in this recipe helps create a smooth and creamy cheese sauce while keeping the recipe light. With a few of the right tricks any dish can be made lighter and taste delicious!

Family Dinner Conversation Starter: Do you know who’s in your family tree? You may be surprised with who you are connected to from generations past.

Melissa O’Brien, MS, RDN, LDN

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