Approximately one-third of American children are overweight and that number is growing. Our kids are at increasing risks of juvenile diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems. Getting kids involved in their diet can help create better eating habits. Whether they are cooking for themselves or for the family, two ingredients keep in mind when you let children cook are familiarity and simplicity.
Stick to simple recipes, cooking techniques, and kitchen utensils, even if you’re helping your kids make a meal. The easier and tastier the meal, the more your kids will want to cook.
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup
This kid-favorite combo is nutritious and a welcome lunch or dinner after cold-weather play. Kids will get to use a food processor or hand blender and griddle–with your supervision. Start with whole wheat bread, low-fat cheese and a low-fat butter substitute. Read nutrition labels to avoid products with trans fats. Add a filling to the sandwich such as lean ham or sliced tomatoes for more flavor and nutrition. If your kids won’t eat crusts, let your junior chefs carefully trim crusts before buttering and grilling the bread.
It’s easy to make a tomato soup using fresh or canned tomatoes. Blend tomatoes with low-fat milk, a pinch of salt, pepper and basil. Thicken with fat-free sour cream, if you wish. You can find many age-appropriate recipes for tomato soup with a simple Internet search. Finish with a fat-free dessert such as a fresh fruit salad.
Low-Fat Burgers and Fries
Use lean ground turkey (from breast meat) or bison to make healthier burgers. Let kids shape the patties, then season them before cooking. Have them use a monounsaturated fat to lightly grease the pan, since lean meats are drier than hamburger. Teach your young cooks how to saute mushrooms and onions in the pan during the cooking process for moist toppings and more nutrition. Serve with whole grain buns, lettuce and tomatoes.
To make easy, healthy fries, use sweet potatoes. Leave the skins on thick-cut slices of white potatoes, if that’s what you’re using. Teach the children how to bake fries, rather than deep frying them. Start the fries in the microwave for one minute to soften them and decrease baking time. Bake them on a rack, and season them with low-sodium spices. Serve with vegetarian or fat-free baked beans and a low-fat dessert such as frozen yogurt.
With the right ingredients, kids can make their own, nutritious pizza pies. Start with a healthy, store-bought crust, or make your own dough if you know how. Have kids pour or ladle a small amount of tomato sauce in the center of the dough, then spread outward with the back of a spoon. It’s better to start with too little sauce, adding more as you need it, rather than putting too much on the dough and having to remove it. Use a low-fat cheese and try having the kids mix two or three different types of cheese for more flavor.
Thick-slice their favorite veggies and let them top their own pizzas, starting from the inside and working out. Soften veggies in the microwave for a minute to start the carmelization process and make sure your kids don’t bite into raw onions or peppers when they eat their pizza. You can use English muffins or French or Italian bread for pizzas, as well. Let them make smiley faces, hearts or write their names with the veggies, if they wish. Serve with a garden salad with fresh vegetables and a low-fat dressing and finish with a low-fat dessert such as angel food cake or ginger snaps.
Other Healthy Eating Ideas…