Special to the Journal
How often do your kids help you cook dinner? Most busy parents take on planning meals, grocery shopping, cooking and clean-up tasks all on their own, but why not get your kids involved? Even young children can help with meals, and research shows that families who cook and eat together reap these benefits:
Research from Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse suggests that kids who eat family dinners get better grades in school, develop better communication skills and are less likely to try drugs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics found kids who ate dinner with their family regularly were less likely to be obese.
According to the USDA, helping out in the kitchen helps children develop confidence and build independence. Cooking and eating meals with your children provides opportunities to talk and build lasting memories.
Your children are more likely to enjoy cooking when you start with simple, easy-to-prepare foods.
Begin with simple pasta and vegetable dishes or help them bake breads and muffins that are chock-full of fruits or vegetables.
Preschoolers enjoy cooking tasks such as mixing muffin batter, spreading peanut butter on a slice of bread, cutting soft foods like bananas or watermelon with a plastic knife, or adding ingredients to a salad.
Grade school age children can handle reading simple recipes and measuring ingredients. As your child gains
Involve your kids in planning meals using the Choose My Plate guidelines: fill half of the dinner plate with a variety of vegetables, one-quarter of the plate with a grain or starch such as potato, rice, noodles or bread; and the final one-quarter of the plate with protein such as chicken, fish, tofu, legumes, or red meat. You may be surprised at the delicious food combinations your children invent and the entire family will benefit from working together to plan and enjoy meals.
Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach in Manchester and online at www.LynnGrieger.com. Her boys grew up helping out in the kitchen, and continue to enjoy eating homemade, healthy foods.