March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
With special treats and family gatherings, the perfect time to teach your child about cooking and nutrition is during the holidays! Kids will not only get to try the new foods they prepare, but they will also get a big boost to their confidence when they see family and friends enjoying their creations. Most importantly, cooking with your children will promote future health by teaching them about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals.
To be safe, cover a few ground rules before getting started in the kitchen. Teach kids to wash their hands with warm, soapy water while singing two choruses of "Happy Birthday" to kill all germs.
To begin cooking, teach your child the basics, such as cracking an egg or gathering the ingredients for a favorite holiday recipe. Convey to your child the importance of measuring the correct amount of each ingredient and the different types of utensils you need to use.
Look Who's Cooking!
- To keep your children enthusiastic about cooking, assign tasks of a holiday recipe they are able to prepare based on their abilities. Here are some ideas depending on your child's age:
- Five and six year olds: stir instant pudding, snap green beans, prepare lettuce for a salad, press cookie cutters, pour liquids into batter
- Seven and eight year olds: rinse vegetables, shuck corn, mix and shake ingredients, beat eggs, measure dry ingredients
- Nine and ten year olds: knead bread dough, stir hot mixtures, blend batters, broil foods in toaster oven, cut foods with a table knife
- Children age ten and older: slice or chop vegetables, boil potatoes, microwave foods, bake foods in the oven, simmer ingredients on the stove.
Remember to allow your child to gradually master cooking methods. Start with simple techniques like rolling dough, using a cookie cutter or spreading frosting. Give your child time to work his or her way up to completing the entire cookie making process, from pouring liquids into batter to baking them in the oven. Explain different methods for cooking and their purpose, such as baking versus broiling and how you would cook different dishes.