Welcome back to my blog series, Fit Families with Naomi. In my last post, I reviewed introducing new foods and healthy tips for feeding your littles. Another part of encouraging kids to make healthy choices is involving them in the whole process, start to finish. So lets talk about how to get your kiddos involved! It’s great if you can bring your child with you to the grocery store. I always have my girls help me make a general list of things they know or think we’re out of that are staples at our home, like eggs, milk, fruit, popcorn etc. They enjoy checking the cabinets and fridge to make sure we’re officially out. We talk about where we will find the items we need, and then organize our list in appropriate groups.
Once at the store, offer choices and let your child choose between different healthy options. If you’re out of fruit, ask your child if they’d rather have apples or grapes? Out of vegetables? Cucumbers or carrots? Whole grain spiral pasta or bow ties? And so on. If they see a healthy item they’re interested in trying, and it’s in your budget, then buy it! Talk about what main dishes you’re thinking about making for the week and ask what sides they think would be best. Let them choose a salad dressing to try. Encouraging kids to make choices themselves and involving them in this way usually ensures they’ll be less likely to reject the food when it’s presented at a meal. Also a bonus of coming and helping you shop, lots of stores offer completely free incentives for kids. Safeway offers a balloon in their floral department and a cookie in their bakery, and lots of Whole Foods and Kroger offer a free fruit of choice.
Aside from big box grocery stores, it’s also important to remember that there are so many other options for gathering healthy foods. Taking time with your family to visit local farmers markets helps your community farmers by shopping small. If you’re able, planting your own garden (even if it’s just herbs!) gives kids a sense of responsibility, as they’re able to water and care for the garden with you. Also visiting local farms and “You-Pick” fruit places are wonderful because your children get to experience working for their food. We took our girls to a You-Pick Cherry spot this past week and they really loved looking for the “just right” cherries!
Back at home, having them help in the kitchen is one of the best ways to build up excitement for healthy meals and foods. Some great age appropriate ways that kids can be helpful are:
Obviously at this young age, a lot of what they’re able to help with will still require some adult assistance/supervision. Some ideas are to have them help wash fresh produce in the sink, using clean hands to tear lettuce for salads, stirring when stirring is needed (for instance ranch seasoning in Greek yogurt for dip), kneading dough, helping dispose of peels either in trash or compost, putting silverware away in appropriate spots (assuming sharp knives are located out of reach), putting groceries away, and scooping insides from potatoes of squash (spaghetti squash is a hit at our home!)
Cutting soft foods with a butter knife with supervision, measuring out liquids and dry ingredients when given proper measurement tool, crack eggs, squeeze citrus juice, set the timer, spread butter or jam on toast, help set the table, make their own trail mix bags, helping to load the dishwasher and rinse dishes in the sink with soap, and turning things over on the stove with a spatula (pancakes, grilled cheese) with very close adult supervision. My oldest daughter loves making personal pizzas; she spreads the sauce with a spoon, adds her favorite toppings and sprinkles the cheese on top. She also helps set the timer for however long the pizzas need to bake!
The great thing about school age kids is they’re learning about math and chemistry in school, and wouldn’t you know it, measuring is math and baking is chemistry! Have them use a kitchen scale to measure out serving sizes, like of lunch meat or cheeses. At this age they should be able to use a peeler, and a grater to peel or grate foods. Work on using a can opener with them (take note of the sharp edge of the can top for safety). Identify kitchen items such as whisks, measuring cups, etc by name as you go so as you continue to cook actual recipes they can find those items for you on their own.
Thanks so much for joining me again! Some things planned for upcoming posts are having an “inspiration” photo collage of healthy meals I’ve prepared for my littles that have been hits, as well as tried and true recipes our family loves, and simple healthy substitutions you can easily make. I am always open for suggestions, so if there’s anything you’d like me to cover please don’t hesitate to let me know!