One of the most important aspects of parenting is imparting your children with important life skills that will enable them to live long and happy lives. As a parent, you are instinctually compelled to do whatever you can to ensure that your offspring has the best chance of success once they leave the nest to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
One of the most crucial life skills you can pass onto your children is the ability to prepare healthy home-cooked meals. Without knowing how to prepare their own fresh food, your children will likely be forced to rely on heavily processed and pre-cooked meals when they eventually move out.
However, it can be difficult to get young children interested in cooking healthy meals, especially if they are used to you preparing all their food or if they’ve been spoilt with takeaway options. Children are naturally impatient and can find it difficult to comprehend why adopting a healthy diet is so important for their future well-being.
Let’s take a look at a few strategies you can use to help get your children excited to cook healthy meals at home.
Show them how to make the healthy version of a dish they already enjoy
One of the best ways you can introduce your children to healthy home cooking is to frame it as a way for them to get their favourite meals whenever they want. Rather than waiting for their parents to cook them something or take them out for food, they can take matters into their own hands right in the kitchen.
Most kids love having an American style fast food burger. Instead of coming home with take-out, why not show them how to make some incredible home-made BBQ chicken burgers?
There’s no shortage of healthy substitutes for popular take-away meals out there. Find out what your kids love most and research some healthy alternatives they can help prepare.
This is even easier during the holidays, as kids will be even more excited to prepare classic foods they associate with the occasion. For example, some yummy gluten free gingerbread men are perfect for Christmas time.
Start them off with small tasks around the kitchen
Introducing your child to the kitchen environment is the first step in getting them comfortable and interested in home cooking. When you make a meal for the family, involve your children in small, simple tasks that they can do easily and explain why it was important in the cooking process.
For example, telling a child to grab a bag of rice out of the pantry will make them feel involved when they’re eating said rice at the dinner table. Connecting a child’s actions to the delicious end result is one of the most effective ways to get them interested in home cooking.
Teach them to enjoy trying new foods
As any parent knows all too well, children are picky eaters. Once they find what they like they tend to be very reluctant to try something new, especially if it is green in colour.
A great way to help your kids overcome picky eating behaviours is to make the act of trying new foods a fun activity for them. Having a weekly ‘new foods night’ is perfect for getting your kids into a routine of trying new things.
The more foods they try, the greater appreciation they will have for culinary experimentation and the cooking process as a whole. If your child tries a new vegetable and likes it, you can leverage their participation in the kitchen by encouraging them to include it in whatever you’re cooking.
Include them in the shopping process
While taking your children with you while grocery shopping is something you probably have already done, how involved were they in actually selecting healthy ingredients? You should try to encourage your kids to pick from a range of options and put the chosen item in the cart themselves.
This will help give them a better understanding of how food arrives in the kitchen and, eventually, onto their plate. They’ll quickly begin to form connections between the food choices they make in the grocery aisle and what they end up enjoying for dinner.
Involve their friends
If your child is attending school and has started making friends, then it may be worthwhile to conspire with other parents to get all your kids cooking healthy food together. This could be as simple as encouraging your children to help prepare food for their friends when they come over to play.
This will introduce the children to the joy of cooking for others and seeing reactions to dishes they prepared. This could even be the inspiration your child needs to start a career as a professional chef!
Getting children to take an active interest in preparing healthy meals at home is all about slowly exposing them to convenience and joy of creating their own meals. Once they learn how fun, satisfying and beneficial cooking their own meals can be, you’ll be struggling to keep them out of the kitchen!