Plus: Top five tips to make mealtime easier.
Mealtime can be one of the busiest times for many families with children. Be it preparing breakfast, packing lunches, snacks or dinner, there’s always something to do in the kitchen.
Did you know that involving your children in meal prep could be one of the best activities you can do as a parent? It’s win-win, they have fun – you get help, and shhhhhh…don’t tell them, but they’re learning too!
We talked to Amanda Nash, RD – Registered Dietitian with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Manitoba to find out how we can best involve kids in cooking – all while preparing healthy meals in record time.
“Kids can help out in the planning, the preparation and the clean up – there is something kids of all ages can safely do!” says Nash, adding, “mealtime offers different learning opportunities such as reading, math, motor skills, gardening, nutrition, an understanding of how food is prepared and where it comes from.”
Beyond skill and knowledge development, time spent in the kitchen with your kids can offer opportunity to bond and have fun. It is a time to create memories and lifelong skills and habits they will take with them when they move out on their own.
Nash says research shows that children who are involved in mealtime tend to:
– Eat more fruits and vegetables
– Get more key nutrients such as calcium and fibre
– Consume less pop
– Accept new foods more readily
But it goes beyond just health! Nash says that kids who prepare/eat meals at home with their families have been shown to:
– Perform better in school
– Understand family values
– Learn the life skill of cooking
So how can we involve the kids?
Most parents are busy and tend to rely on the same food routines thinking it’s easier to just to prepare the food and serve it. When we do this, however, we can be missing out on some of those great teaching and bonding opportunities. Nash provides a few ideas of how we can best involve the kids and save time while preparing nutritious meals.
Top five tips to make mealtime easier.
- Get children involved in the meal preparation. The more invested they are the more likely they will be to eat and enjoy the foods.
- Create a weekly meal plan that incorporates leftovers into lunches. This will not only save on food waste, but also cut back on trips to the grocery store and reliance on convenience foods.
- Have each family member in the family choose one or two meals per week and take the ‘lead’ on that meal.
- Prepare what you can ahead of time. For example, chop veggies and place in plastic bags or containers right when you get home from the grocery store while you are putting groceries away. This way they are ready to go for easy snacks and prepared for meals when you need them.
- Batch cook when you have time. Soups, stews, casseroles, pastas, meatballs, marinated meats and many more foods/recipes can easily be double or tripled while you are preparing them. Then all you have to do is package, date and freeze for future meals. Involve the kids in your batch cooking, by turning on some music and creating an assembly line! Make it an entertaining event and every time you pull one of these meals out of the freezer, they’ll remember a fun family evening.
If you have picky eaters, involving them in meal prep can help them get past their preferences, as they’ll be so proud of what they’ve created…they’ll just have to try it!
e-mail ac.sm1508810211emw@t1508810211rams1508810211 to request a copy of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Quick and Healthy Recipe Book – Kids’ Edition, or the Party Hearty Guide for Children & Youth Focused Events (ie: Birthday parties). Limited quantities available.
*** Mr. Krahn and Mr. Sawatzky have begun a “Home Ec” activity at our Katherine Friesen Campus with the students in gr. 4-6 who do not attend Ensemble. They’ve started working with measurements, kitchen safety, food preparation and have already made a salad with salad dressing. Eventually they will be making simple meals, and perhaps even some baking! This could make for some tasty homework!