This is how we helped our children (and us) become adventurous eaters. In Part I (click for link to blog post) and Part II (click for link to blog post) I wrote about how this all started and giving our children the appropriate words to use when talking about food.
One of my goals for my children before they graduated high school was that they could plan a meal from start to finish. This includes researching recipes, meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking the meal, and cleaning up afterwards. We have made great strides in all the areas. Cleaning up could be a bit better but I am happy that they can load the dishwasher and hand wash the pots and pans as needed.
Studies show that children who cook eat more vegetables and leafy green (click for link to a study) and that teens that cannot cook don’t care about their diet as much as those who do (click for link to article). This article in particular stated that many teens consider microwaving a pizza as cooking.
Little children can stir, scoop, and dump ingredients into a bowl. As they get older they can learn how to measure then eventually cut and prep vegetables and cook on the stove top. Having the plastic bowls and utensils where they can easily reach them at age appropriate levels gives them a sense of independence. I knew at three-four when I said to my kids get the big blue bowl and the measuring cups and spoons out they would get excited because they knew we were cooking and making something together.
We posted the menus for the week on our calendar. The kids always knew what we were going to have for dinner because we would talk about it all day. For our starter we are having a green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and almonds. For our entrée we are having xxx with xxxx as a starch and xxxx as a vegetable. By dinner time they knew what ingredients we were using and what they would need to get from the refrigerator to make the salad or entree.
They knew we had different components to each meal. When I started meal planning with them I would follow the same format but offer them the choice of two things when they were very young. Should we cook chicken with spaghetti or ground beef tacos? Then should we have brussels sprouts or spinach for a vegetable? If I tried to do it all at once they chose wild things that we did not always have time for during the week. Lasagna is not in my schedule on a Wednesday night!
When they were about tweens they started planning a meal once a week in the same way but I pretty much gave free reign as long as it had all the components of a healthy meal. They would prep the meal with guidance from me and then cook it. I would help as they needed. Even now that they are older they cook part of the meal just about every night. They know how to cream butter and sugar together. They can saute’ onions and peppers. They can pan fry chicken. I am confident in their cooking skills and their safety while they are cooking.
It seems a small part of their becoming an adventurous eater but it was such a large part in that when they are part of the cooking and planning they are trying to think of new foods to try and working on new cooking techniques.