Cooking With Kids: The Best Way To Teach Kids About Nutrition

Love cooking with your kids or not sure if you should give it a try?

Cooking with kids is one of the best ways to teach them about nutrition and the value of eating healthy foods. Besides learning independence and how to make their way around a kitchen, cooking with kids is an excellent way to involve children in the meal planning and set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits.

Children who help prepare their own meals have healthier eating habits than children who don’t, according to a survey of 5th grade students in Alberta, Canada, conducted by the University of Alberta.

Cooking with kids gives you the opportunity to talk to them about nutrition and healthy meals. You can explain the differences between French fries and a baked sweet potato or compare the nutrition value of your own breaded fish vs. packaged frozen fish sticks. It may take a bit more patience, but children that are taught the value of healthy foods are more prepared to make better food choices as they get older.

When my children were young I revamped their favorite foods, creating kid friendly recipes that included whole grains and vegetables, transforming them into healthy nutritious meals that I am happy serving anytime. I have explained to the kids why I add squash to their macaroni & cheese and why our pancakes are made from oats and not flour and they have discovered that they enjoy the taste of the healthier version, squash and all!

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I recently took this one step further and for my daughters 10th birthday I gave her a cooking lesson. I asked her what she loved eating most and taught her how to make it. Home made chicken strips with whole wheat bread crumbs we made ourselves from saved crusts, lasagna full of broccoli and the spinach brownies they enjoy in their lunch everyday. By picking kid-friendly recipes that she actually loves eating, she was more interested in learning how to make them.

She even invited a friend over a few nights later and they made their own dinner of chicken strips and cooked carrots!

It is true, more patience required when you invite kids into the kitchen, but there are many jobs you can give to little hands to start your kids cooking at a young age. By introducing them to kid friendly recipes and fun in the kitchen, you open the door to a family activity that begins a healthy education and love of nutritious food!

You will never see a prouder child at a dinner table than one who has helped you prepare the meal.

Two of Our Favorite Kid-Friendly Recipes

Oatmeal Pancakes

These fibre & protein rich pancakes will freeze well and kids can pop them in a toaster on school mornings for a filling breakfast. They are so good that even my non oatmeal loving kids love these!

1½ cups rolled oats

2 cups milk

½ cup oat bran

¼ cup ground flax

¼ cup hemp seeds, bran, wheat germ or flax

1 tbsp maple syrup or honey

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

¼ oil

Chocolate chips if desired

Mix oats and milk and let sit for at least 10 minutes to soften oats. Mix oat bran, flax, hemp seeds, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon and baking powder then add to oatmeal mixture. Add egg, oil and chocolate chips and mix well. Pour small ladlefuls onto heated griddle. These are very filling pancakes, so make smaller than regular pancakes. Makes 16 pancakes.

Macaroni & Cheese

Every kids favorite. So convenient in a box, but lacking any nutrients! This is one meal that needs a makeover! Add pureed vegetables and whole wheat noodles and Mac n Cheese becomes a quick dinner everyone loves!

whole wheat noodles

¼ cup butter

1 onion diced (my kids prefer no onions)

½ cup whole wheat flour

2 cups milk

2 cups shredded cheddar

½ cup pureed squash

½ cup pureed zucchini/cauliflower or carrots

Cook noodles as directed on package. In a separate pan or skillet, melt butter and add onion, cooking until soft. Add flour and mix into melted butter. Slowly pour in milk and stir often as milk heats up and flour dissolves. Add cheddar cheese, and pureed vegetables, stirring until mix comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool slightly to thicken. If it’s too thick add more milk. Add only what you need to noodles, I find I have left over sauce. It freezes really well and makes the next batch of healthy Mac & Cheese super simple!