Cooking With Your Children
Why it's so important to spend time in the kitchen with your children -- and how you can get started
Parents, grandparents, and youngsters cooking together in the kitchen,
sharing family recipes and secrets passed from one generation to the next, is a
lost art in many households across America. These days, it's hard for busy
parents even to take time out to teach their kids basic cooking techniques.
It's true that including the kids in cooking meals requires time, patience,
and some extra clean-up, especially when the children are younger. But many
experts think it is well worth the effort.
For one thing, cooking with your kids can help get them interested in trying
healthy foods they might normally turn their noses up at. Susan Moores, MS, RD,
a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says she has seen this
happen countless times. It's true that kids will be kids -- they'll snack on
chips at a school party or enjoy ice cream after a soccer game. But what is
most important is how they eat most of the time, Moores says. And that's
where parents can play a role. Keep in mind that for kids today, healthy eating
essentially means eating more fruits and vegetables, having whole grains and
beans when possible, and choosing leaner types of animal foods (even some fish
every now and then.)
Encouraging kids to try healthier foods isn't the only benefit of cooking as
a family. Among the recommendations in a recent American Heart Association
report on overweight in children and teens were:
- Reducing the number of meals eaten outside the home.
- Having structured times for family meals.
- Offering healthier, low-calorie foods.
- Involving children in meal planning, shopping, and food preparation.
Indeed, cooking with kids can be the gift that keeps on giving; it has both
short-term and long-term payoffs.
Some of the short-term benefits:
- It encourages kids to try healthy foods.
- Kids feel like they are accomplishing something and contributing to the
- Kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepare
- Parents get to spend quality time with their kids.
- Kids aren't spending time in front of the TV or computer while they're
- Kids generally aren't eating junk food when they're cooking a meal at
Some long-term benefits:
- Learning to cook is a skill your children can use for the rest of their
- Kids who learn to eat well may be more likely to eat healthfully as
- Positive cooking experiences can help build self-confidence.
- Kids who cook with their parents may even be less likely to abuse
Less likely to abuse drugs? It makes perfect sense if you consider a report
from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia
University. In the report, Family Matters: Substance Abuse and the American
Family, the center recommends 10 steps parents can take to prevent
substance abuse. Among them are these three: