We all know how important it is for kids to eat healthily but as many parents know too well, slamming down a plate of broccoli in front of a two year old or presenting your tearaway teen with a fresh fruit salad at dessert doesn’t always go down especially well. Kids cooking classes are one way, and there are others. It’s all too easy to reach for the sugary treats or let them off lightly which over time, makes eating healthily feel like a real chore – and in the long run will make kids even more unenthusiastic about eating up their greens. Of course, kids need all sorts of different nutrients in their diet, including fat and sugar but as Essential Kids says, ‘poor food selection is one of the major contributing factors to weight gain in children’. So why do kids make bad choices when it comes to food? Seeing veggies and fruit as a gruelling part of the day and sugary snacks as a “treat” and rewards certainly can’t help…
Cooking with your kids
So, do we just keep going with the veggie hard sell and endure moody mealtimes? We at VictorsFood know that the answer lies in creation – learning how to cook and enjoy the process of making healthy foods will seriously inspire your kids to get enthusiastic about eating well! Of course, we wouldn’t quite be truthful if we said that the odd cake or sweet pudding didn’t slip into our repertoire once in a while (who doesn’t love a good chocolate tart?) but teaching kids that healthy food can be absolutely delicious is something we’re fully passionate about.
Many parents feel that cooking with their toddler or teen is more trouble than it’s worth and with busy lives to be getting on with, it’s not difficult to see why. However, there are plenty of ways you can get your little ones involved in the kitchen, without having to repaint the walls the next day – Raising Children Network suggests getting young kids to help out with simple recipes like ‘mashed potatoes’, ‘biscuits’, fruit and yogurt smoothies’ or ‘muffins’ and packing them all out with fresh fruits and veg. Not only does this encourage young minds to enjoy their healthy efforts, it also increases their vocabulary and keeps boredom at bay.
The stats on childhood health these days are certainly scary and sadly, most of the issues faced are totally diet related. Sugar consumption is a really hot topic at the moment and whilst cutting it out completely is pretty extreme, cutting down is certainly recommended. Kwikmed reveals that in 1997, some kids were estimated to be eating a terrifying ‘53 spoonfuls of sugar’ every day. Yikes. Aside from being a danger to the teeth, this excess of sugar is making us all sick; as ABC Health and Wellbeing put plainly, ‘the amount of added sugar consumed in processed food is linked to the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes’. Even though parents may feel that they’re feeding their kids a healthy diet, spoonfuls of extra sugar can hide in fruit yogurts, prepared sauces, peanut butter and even low fat dairy products. It’s certainly not just cakes and cookies which contribute to your kids’ sugar intake and mostly, the culprits are processed products.
Eating as a family
Can we blame this on a fast food culture and busy lifestyle anymore? We don’t think so. As we mentioned before, the best way to get kids to eat healthily is to teach them how to cook themselves.
Sadly however, many adult Australians aren’t so well acquainted with the kitchen themselves, which means that processed foods often feature heavily in the family diet and therefore that children aren’t given sufficient training. Foodwatch Australia claims, ‘sociologists fear that families today are losing their communication skills, no longer allowing themselves the opportunity to sit down at the end of a day and talk, let go, laugh, argue and solve problems.
Aside from being much healthier, there’s certainly much to be gained from sitting around the table at the end of the day to enjoy a meal cooked by yourself and maybe even a few small helping hands! As well as being infinitely more delicious, cooking up a storm at home is far cheaper that relying on processed foods – and seeing those tiny faces light up after tasting the fruits of their labour is definitely priceless!
There are loads of simple and healthy recipes for even kitchenhy families to try out and revolutionary British chef Jamie Oliver has some fantastic ideas. Speaking to Kidspot, he suggested that we ‘get them [kids] excited about food! Get them in the kitchen and helping you. Take them to the fruit and vegetable shop and explain where the food has come from and what it tastes like. Or make up a little vegetable garden for them to look after and grow different veggies’. Activities such as these are hugely rewarding and will help you to learn easy techniques too. How about starting off small with a wholemeal pitta bread pizza and salad or a bright fruit smoothie? And remember Kids Can Cook! Check out our school holiday kids cooking class here. These simple efforts will get kids used to the flavours of healthy fruits and veggies as well as great techniques to cook them up – it’s never too early to learn how to eat healthily!