The Health Benefits of Cooking with Your Kids

Quality time with your kiddos is just the start.

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Young children are often picky eaters. This means meals can become a chore for parents, and kids might not get all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Over time, this can affect their health and complicate their relationship with food. One solution? Involve them in the kitchen. There are many benefits of cooking with children, for both your kids and you.

Benefits of Cooking with Children

1. It’s great quality time

There’s some evidence that family bonding time can help improve social and behavioral health for kids. It often helps them learn healthy habits, improve their self-esteem, and develop healthy interpersonal skills.

2. Cooking introduces kids to new tastes

Studies show that when kids cook something, they are more likely to try it. That includes veggies and other nutrient-rich foods. It’s also an opportunity to touch, smell, or taste ingredients, and discuss where produce comes from. This may be incredibly valuable if you’ve got a kid who seems “stuck” on non-nutritious foods.

What’s more, kids are more likely to try a food if they help grow it. If you are able, plant some herbs or root veggies and have your child help with the process. Participating in this “farm-to-table” process may pique their curiosity and encourage them to try a food they would otherwise wrinkle their nose at.

3. It builds kids’ confidence around their food choices

Getting children involved early on in planning and cooking healthy meals can help boost their confidence. As kids get older, they get more and more say in what they eat. Adolescents and teens may be more likely to make healthy choices if they’ve had conversations about food at home. Plus, they’ll have actual cooking skills, so they’ll be more equipped to prepare healthy meals instead of relying on convenience foods.

4. It’s a low-stress way to discuss nutrition

Scolding your child for “bad food choices” is likely to cause tension. Worse, it may cause shame and guilt, which may affect your child’s relationship with food in the future.

Instead, casually discuss foods while you’re cooking together. Keep it positive and upbeat. Talk about the benefits of different foods, why you like them, and how healthy foods help them grow, move, and think. Encourage them to ask questions. Share simple tips, such as the importance of “eating the rainbow.” Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.”

These kinds of conversations are invaluable since rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes are increasing in children. Understanding nutrition at a young age may improve their health for decades to come.

Simple Tips for Cooking with Kids

You don’t have to wait until your child is a teenager before you invite them into the kitchen. Everyone can participate.

To get started, here are some quick tips:

  • Stirring, sprinkling, and dumping pre-measured ingredients are perfect for younger kids
  • Cracking eggs, cutting vegetables, and measuring ingredients are good tasks for older kids
  • Let teens pick out the dish to give them a sense of ownership
  • Pick simple dishes with fewer than five ingredients for younger kids
  • Pick “assembly line” foods so kids can get involved even if they can’t use a knife. For example, have them help assemble a salad or a pizza
  • Try a “dump and stir” recipe, like muffins or whole-wheat pancakes
  • Teach kids of all ages about the dangers in the kitchen, such as hot stoves or sharp knives

So choose a recipe they’ll love together, set some safety kitchen rules, and get started. Don’t forget to compliment the little chefs for their great work and progress. Bon appetit!