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  • Family Matters: Using nutrition and food preparation as parenting tools

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  • I’ve been working with a mom who wants to begin to offer healthier meals for her family, but just doesn’t know how to cook.
    As a young girl, her mother and grandmother “shooed” her out of the kitchen, saying that it was too dangerous, or that they could prepare meals much faster without her. As a mother of two young girls, she generally orders pizza or warms frozen meals to supplement cereal and sandwiches.
    Preparing food with children has far-reaching positive effects, including introducing children to healthy foods that they might not typically be drawn to.
    Continuous exposure through preparation offers children of all ages the opportunity to taste without pressure, while taking pride in preparation. Food prep teaches a variety of skills, as well as builds independence and self-confidence.
    • Math skills are enhanced through counting and measuring.
    • Language development is fostered through reading, following directions and careful listening.
    • Fine motor and eye-hand skills are nurtured while opening boxes, chopping (using a plastic knife for younger ones), mixing, whisking and pouring.
    With all those great skills to be learned, why not invite the kids into the kitchen?
    Organize the week’s menu as a family
    Browse through the Sunday paper together to see what is on sale, and build your weekly menu while saving money. Younger children can cut pictures of needed items and tape to the shopping list.
    Aprons all around!
    Purchase inexpensive aprons for everyone. Once the aprons go on, hands get washed and the preparation begins. Encourage older children to choose one night each week to develop a menu and prepare the family meal, with your help. My mother invited us to do this as we were growing up, and I learned to serve up some fabulous dishes. Develop Teen Teams — where one prepares the main dish, another prepares the veggies.
    Raise a reader!
    Review labels and ingredients together to learn what you are filling your bodies with. Minimize serving beloved fat filled, nutrition-less meals such as pizza and hot dogs.
    Prepare something for everyone
    Even if your child doesn’t care for string beans, teach him to rinse and snap off the ends. Balance each meal with protein, vegetables, dairy and a small serving of starch. Serve something you know that each person will enjoy, so mealtimes are enjoyable.
    Encourage picky eaters by serving “family style,” allowing everyone to serve themselves at least one piece of everything. Second helpings of favorites can be taken once everything has been tried.
    Introduce cultural cuisine
    Find simple recipes and incorporate fun accessories including chopsticks, bowls or napkins to enhance the meal.
    Teach nutrition as you prepare meals together, explaining how different ingredients support healthy bodies.
    Page 2 of 2 - Diana Boggia, M.Ed. is a parenting coach and author of “Parenting with a Purpose.” Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources at Diana Boggia’s website, www.yourperfectchild.com.

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