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Boost Your Family’s Interest in Healthy Foods

It Worked for Me!
(continued)

Kids and Healthy Food: Good Work!

It's awesome that kids are getting into the kitchen, says Zelman. The benefit of cooking food with children? It's a great time for a nutrition lesson. "To inspire kids, you've got to make it fun. Cooking is a great way to do that. When kids get involved, they learn. They develop a vested interest in the food."

Family dinners tend to be healthier than those eaten out, studies show. After-school snack time is also healthier. Plus, kids reap all sorts of social benefits from family dinnertime. "Studies show that, when kids eat dinner with the family, they do better in school, are better adjusted socially, and don't do drugs," Zelman tells WebMD. "A lot of family connections are built across the dinner table."  

Parents need to be role models, she adds. "It's hard to get kids to eat vegetables if dad's not eating them." She's glad to see a male voice on WebMD's message boards. "Many of the world's great chefs are men. A man's place is in the kitchen, too."

Here's another family activity: Pack the family picnic basket for softball games, soccer games, and other outings. It keeps kids away from high-fat junk at the games -- plus they can help with the fixings:

  • Wrap it. Lean meat, veggies, salsa or light dressing -- that's all you need for wraps. They're easy to transport and super nutritious. 
  • Dump it. Easy Mexican salad: A can of drained and rinsed black beans; a can of drained corn; a can of chopped Mexican-style tomatoes in lime juice; a chopped red pepper; a pinch of cumin; a bit of cayenne. Easy pasta salad: Cherry tomatoes, green beans, whole-grain pasta, a little pesto. 
  • Keep it sweet. A colorful fruit platter or fruit salad can satisfy a sweet tooth. Kids can choose their favorite fruits -- then cut, fix, or mix them.

Taking the kids grocery shopping is a great idea, says Zelman. "It's an amazing way to teach young kids about healthy foods, and older kids, too. Before my son went to college, we went grocery shopping together, so he could learn how to pick out fruits, chicken, meat. We spent a couple of hours going through the aisles."

WebMD readers: Keep posting your great suggestions on our message boards. Here are some links:

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Reviewed on May 13, 2009
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Need some quick, fresh ideas? Ever wonder what's behind the latest food headlines? Check in with Elaine Magee, RD, MPH.

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