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kidscookby Angela Aladjem RD, LD

Often, I am asked about how to encourage healthy eating in children. When given the chance, kids are usually able to make the right choice. Parents need only to create a supportive environment, where they model healthy choices and also make those choices as a family. I think one of the most important things a parent can do is involve the child in everything from menu design to shopping to cooking. Once you get into the kitchen, kids get to experience not only healthy eating, but math and science as well when following recipes and watching foods change in the process. The following is an outline of activities that are suitable for each age group.

Preschoolers:

-Count items
-wash produce
-pour small amounts of liquid
-stir items (make sure to use a large bowl)
-tear lettuce or other greens
-mash bananas for baking
-open packages

Five To Six Year Olds:

-Same as above

-Cut herbs with safe scissors
-Set the table
-Shape dough

Seven To Eight Year Olds:

-Help plan the meal
-Mix with a whisk or handheld mixer
-Help identify spices or other ingredients from the pantry
-Make a salad

9 Years Old And Above:

-Use parental discretion
-At this point, children can usually prepare simple things themselves and start doing more advanced tasks

With children of all ages, it is important to instill the importance of food safety. Children should always be told to wash their hands, before handling food and after handling raw meat or eggs. They should also be told to not lick their hands or utensils that have raw batter on them because of the risk of foodborne illness. Teach them to clean countertops before and after food prep. Foods that are perishable should not be kept out long once they have been used or prepared.

As with anything, it is important to have adult supervision. The kitchen is full of potential accidents: sharp edges, hot surfaces, and spills. With careful planning and a little creativity, however, the kitchen can become a place of healthy discovery.


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