Cooking can be a pleasure for children of all ages. It is fun and is a great activity for nurturing life-skills, boosting confidence and independence.
Most children love to cook, it is hands on, messy and there’s plenty of room for creativity, not to mention a sense of achievement at the end.
Investing time and teaching your child to cook is providing a life skill that will set them up for life.
Children will learn to love cooking if you relax and have fun with them in the kitchen. If you feel nervous, start with basic recipes, they’re still a good learning experience. Only step in when it’s absolutely necessary, otherwise let them enjoy and create.
As you’re cooking, talk about ingredients and their origins, cooking processes and techniques. Cooking can be a great way to learn about science, geography and maths (through weighing) in a practical way. It’s good for fine motor skills and coordination too.
Transforming fussy into adventurous
It is often difficult to get children to eat certain foods such as vegetables and fibre-rich grains, but helping in the kitchen can entice even the fussiest of eaters to try something new. Encouraging touching and tasting will make the experience more enjoyable. It will encourage more adventurous eating plus it’s a good opportunity to teach children which foods are safe to eat raw.
Many children’s recipes have age guidelines but look at your own child and recognise what they are capable of doing. There are always activities for every child, even if it’s just messing around in the sink washing vegetables and plastic containers while grown-ups and older children chop and cook.
Children will learn many things through cooking but the greatest lesson they can learn is to love preparing delicious, healthy, well-balanced meals.
Healthy eating for children
Encouraging children to eat a nutritious, balanced diet early on is important for a number of reasons. Ensuring they get the right vitamins and minerals in their diet will help them grow and develop optimally. They are also more likely to be energised and motivated, supporting their ability to learn. Educating them on healthy eating during childhood will also help them make healthier choices as they become adults.
Follow the Eatwell Guide
Getting the right amount of food groups in their diet promotes health and well-being. The Eatwell Guide is a helpful starting point. The Eatwell Guide shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. You do not need to achieve this balance with every meal, but try to get the balance right over a day or even a week.
A balanced diet is a way of ensuring you eat all of the required nutrients for your body to function properly. A balanced diet will not be the same for everyone. We’re all different and often, individuals will require different amounts and types of nutrients. What you need will depend on age, gender, lifestyle, health and the rate at which your body works.
Eating a balanced diet is key in maintaining good health and keeping your body in optimum condition. A balanced diet doesn’t cut out food groups; it consists of a wide variety of foods to support your body and keep you energised, motivated and healthy.
Healthy eating basics
To maintain good health, your body needs whole foods and regular physical activity. If you are interested in adopting a more balanced diet, understanding the basics will make the change seem less daunting. Below are five tips to help you get started:
- Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
- Drink plenty of water (six to eight glasses are recommended though this will vary)
- Try to include at least two portions of fish every week
- Get into the habit of eating breakfast every day; it can help reduce snacking later on
- Get active! Adults are advised to conduct 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week and children aged between 5 and 18 years 60 minutes per day. Why not get your friends involved and make it fun?
- Carbohydrates and starchy foods, such as rice, pasta, cereal and potato, should generally be the size of your fist
- Butter and spreads are often high in fat and sugar, therefore only a small amount is needed – aim for a portion the size of the tip of your thumb
- Protein sources, such as meat and fish, should generally be the size of your palm
- Fruit and vegetables will generally make up the largest part of your meals. Try to add a variety of greens to your lunch and dinners and if you can snack on fruit, you can easily reach the 5 a day recommendation
- Once again, portion sizes will vary. If you exercise regularly, you may need more food than someone who isn’t very active – in this case, a nutritionist may be able to help
Reference intakes (RIs)
Reference intakes, or recommended daily amounts (RDAs) are used as general guidelines as to what the average person needs. These can be found on the back of food and drink packaging and can help us understand what is in foods. Similar to the traffic light system printed on the front of most food packaging, knowing what we are eating can encourage us to make healthier choices.
This is only a guide. Remember, different members of the family will have varying needs depending on their age, sex and activity levels, so vary portion sizes accordingly.
If you would like to learn more about what your body requires, based on your health and lifestyle, consider talking to a nutrition professional. People with special dietary needs or a medical condition should ask their doctor or a registered dietitian for advice.
[Images credit: Kate Iceton- childrens cookery workshops at Love Nutritious Food]
This story is part of the Life Seeker newspaper