Do you know that having dinner together as a family several times a week has a positive effect on children? According to Health.com, children who eat with their families frequently eat more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods, which means they are healthier overall. Eating together at home also allows you to control portion sizes. Today, Americans spend more than 40% of their food budget on meals outside the home—which is not good news for healthy eating habits. The average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal.
You can take it a step further by inviting kids into the kitchen to help you prepare meals. This is a great way to spend quality time together and teach them about the ins and outs of cooking, from proper measuring to use of kitchen utensils and appliances, and more. It is a basic life skill, after all. Younger kids can watch what you are doing and help with smaller tasks like stirring or setting the table. Older kids can be taught to measure ingredients and crack eggs.
Allowing your kids to help in the kitchen also teaches them about healthy eating habits and the importance of family meals. According to CookingWithKids.org, when children help prepare healthy foods, they are more likely to eat and enjoy them. So not only do you get to spend quality time with your kids, but you are providing them with the foundation needed to make healthy choices in the future, as well.
The following are some fun recipes you can make with your kids. All of them are easy to make and contain nutritious ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and meat. Insider tip: hiding vegetables in Sloppy Joes is a mom’s number one trick!
- 2 bananas, peeled and sliced
- 1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 oranges, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 tbsp coconut, unsweetened shredded or shaved
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir lightly. Serve immediately.
How kids can help: peeling bananas, peeling oranges, measuring coconut and lime juice, stirring
In this recipe, feel free to substitute any of the fruits to add variety, taking into consideration the season you are in. For the full recipe and other fun recipes from Cooking With Kids, click here.
Ham & Veggie Pinwheels
- 4 eight-inch flour tortillas
- 3/4 cup light cream cheese
- 1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
- 4 large slices baked ham
- 2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
Arrange the tortillas on a cutting board. Spread each with about 3 tablespoons cream cheese, then top with cucumber, ham and tomato slices. Roll up each tortilla, pressing down firmly as you go. Place wraps, seam side down, on a cutting board and cut each into 4 sections.
Feel free to add other vegetables, cheese or even mix in a dry ranch packet with the cream cheese before spreading it on the tortillas!
How kids can help: Measure ingredients; assemble wraps.
For the full recipe and other great recipes from parenting.com, click here.
Sloppy Joe Sliders
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- kosher salt
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup frozen crinkle cut carrots
- ½ cup frozen baby corn
- 8 potato slider buns or 12 mini potato dinner rolls
- 1 cup thinly shredded red cabbage
- ¼ cup dill pickle chips
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, and cook, stirring frequently, until the beef begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and 1 teaspoon salt, and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through, 2 minutes more. Drain off any excess liquid, and add back 2 tablespoons of it. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the ketchup, sugar, vinegar and 1/2 cup water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the carrots and corn, and cook, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender and heated through, 5 minutes.
Scoop some sauce onto 1 half of each slider bun, top with a handful of shredded cabbage and a pickle chip and serve. Some kids may not like cabbage or pickles, so don’t fight them on these toppings, just go for the win with the corn and carrots inside!
How kids can help: stirring the beef and other ingredients, measuring ingredients, assembling sandwiches
For the full recipe and other kid friendly recipes from Food Network, click here.
For all meals, kids can help clean up, as well. This will make them feel like they were a part of the process and teach them about responsibility too.
Encouraging your kids early to take an active role in preparing family meals not only helps them make healthier choices, but it equips them with the basic skills needed to take care of themselves down the road. Cooking can be empowering. What are some of your favorite recipes to prepare with your kids?