Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cooking in the Kitchen: Get the Whole Family Involved!

A lost tradition in many households is the activity of preparing meals together.  Busy schedules including long work hours and participation in extracurricular activities are some reasons many families are unable to prepare meals together.  Experts agree when an entire family is involved in meal preparation they are more likely to exhibit and maintain healthier eating habits.  Remember in 360FN terms a family is considered anyone you live in the same household with.

Involvement in meal preparation allows individual family members to explore their creative senses and determine how foods are to be cooked.  In turn, this exploration can create a greater understanding and excitement about the foods to be consumed.

Specifically, including children in food preparation engages them in the cooking process and introduces  new foods.  Children are able to touch and taste foods that may be unfamiliar to them.  Kids that are exposed to healthy foods in the kitchen are more likely to choose those foods at a later time.  When children learn healthy eating habits at a younger age it is easier to maintain those eating habits for the remainder of their lives.

Growing up my mother frequently allowed me to help in the kitchen. Whether we were baking sweet treats or preparing the nightly dinner she would allow me to mix ingredients or measure out food portions.  I might have gotten to lick the bowl a time or two, but I was still eager to be involved in the kitchen.  In fact when I became old enough I would offer to prepare meals for my parents.

How can you excite your family about getting involved in the kitchen?  Let's explore some methods!

1.  Farm to table approach.  Grow your own vegetables and herbs.  If you do not have a garden start with potted plants.  An easy start to growing your own veggies and herbs is with a tomato and basil plant.  Family members will be more enthusiastic about meal preparation when they cook something they have grown.  Cooking with foods that have been home grown brings meal preparation to a full circle.
2.  Assign family members to a food group.  Choose an overall theme for dinner and allow the family members to decide what they will prepare. For instance you might choose mexican food and assign someone to prepare a vegetable and another person to be responsible for the starch.
3.  Make it exciting, allow creativeness.  Have non-traditional food ingredients available in the kitchen. Bring in foods with varied colors, textures, and flavors.  Promote unusual and fun food presentations.
4.  Get everyone to go grocery shopping.  Allow everyone to choose some of their own foods.  This time allows each person to explore different ingredients to be used in the meal.  Family members will be more excited about foods they have personally chosen to prepare.
5.  Have small roles for younger children.  Allow children who are too young to read directions, measure portions, mix ingredients, or add herbs and seasonings to food.

Let's get cooking!

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