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TIP OF THE DAY: Cook As A Family

The family that prays together stays together, according to a post-World War II prayer movement called Family Rosary Crusade.

But the family that cooks together eats better, and trains the kids to be self-reliant in the kitchen.

As we enter the season of nonstop holiday treats, teaching balance and good eating practices can offset bad habits. So, at least for one meal a week—more if you can manage it—gather the entire family in the kitchen.

If kids learn to cook from a young age, it gives them confidence and skills essential for leading a healthy life—not to mention, it saves a fortune in take out and restaurant meals.

Even if there are no kids in the house, the odds are that there’s an adult who could stand to eat better.

Ditch the fast food and store-prepared take-out (laden with fat, salt and hidden sugar). Start with this list of tips:

  • Cook together. So many families find cooking to be a chore at the end of the day. Make it an enjoyable teaching experience, and use meal preparation time to connect with your children and partner.
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    chefs-oven-risotto-WS-230
    The family that cooks together eats better. Photo courtesy Le Creuset.

     

    • Show kids that spending time preparing fresh foods is fun. Tie into the notion of being attractive, which [alas] is pervading the consciousness of children increasingly younger ages. Explain how actors and models are very careful about their food choices, and often employ health-focused cooks, nutritionists and trainers to keep them looking good.

     

    new-junior-cookbook-betterhomesgardens-230
    It’s easy to start with a cookbook targeted to kids. Photo courtesy Better Homes & Gardens.
     
    • Bring kids to the grocery store and explain how you choose better ingredients and products. If they’re old enough, teach them to read the ingredients labels. They might evolve into the “ingredients checker” for the family, gaining awareness and knowledge on nutrition in the process.
    • Find ways for them to participate. At any age, they can do some prep, be it rinsing and drying produce, measuring ingredients, stirring or tearing lettuce leaves.
    • Show them how to make their favorite recipes: burgers, fruit skewers, pasta, pizza, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, etc.
    • Make soup from scratch. Kids can see how easy it is, how delicious it is, and that soup does not naturally come from a can.
    • Bake together. What better way to get kids interested in cooking than the promise of a cookie or piece of cake as the payoff!
     

    When they get proficient, they can invite friends over for a home cooked meal and impress them. (Our mom was throwing elaborate dinner parties at age 12. Alas, we didn’t get to that level until after college.)

    TRENDING?

    Dr. Nimali Fernando is a pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. Here’s her medical perspective:

    “Childhood obesity is just the tip of the iceberg,” she says. “Under the surface lies the other 70 percent of children, many who may be of normal body weight but suffer from diet-related illnesses. In my practice I see these illnesses like chronic constipation, gastroesophageal reflux, anxiety, and difficulties with attention and concentration. So many of these symptoms are directly related to the diet.”

    Her innovative practice, Yum Pediatrics, also houses a 1000 square foot teaching kitchen, designed to inspire the most reluctant eater. In the kitchen she teaches her patients how to cook and offers classes to the community at large through the Doctor Yum Project.

    Behind the office is a teaching garden meant to be an outdoor waiting space for her patients and a place for her cooking students to learn how food grows and to inspire a love of locally grown produce.

    Can this be turned into a trend among pediatricians nationwide? We hope so!

    COOKBOOKS FOR KIDS

    If you need a nudge, check out these cookbooks, developed for kids:

    • Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book (details)
    • Betty Crocker Kids Cook! (details)
    • ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family (details)
    • Kids’ Fun and Healthy Cookbook (details)
    • Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up (details)

      




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