By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
A child’s food choices are determined by several factors including: food availability, personal preference, and culture. In today’s fast-paced society, the key word is: convenience. Often, this steers us in the direction of making pre-packaged meals that may not be the most nutritious. Many prepackaged meals are high in saturated fat, sodium, refined sugars, and additives. Not only that, but heating up a pre-packaged meal involves using minimal food skills, such as knowledge of food preparation and ingredients.
Recent research suggests a relationship between food preparation/cooking skills and healthy eating in children, adolescents and possibly adults1. This sparked a number of school and community programs across the country aiming to improve children’s and adults’ foods skills. These programs include: Saskatchewan’s Kids Kitchen, Quebec’sPetits cuistots/Parents en réseaux, and Ontario’s Community Food Advisory Program2.
These programs are designed to get kids and adults into the kitchen to learn how to safely cook meals, understand food and nutrition and work as a team. This helps children develop a positive relationship with food.
You can make your own kitchen a FUN classroom for both yourself and your kids!
Below are some tips that will help transform your kitchen into a creative classroom full of fun, excitement, and most importantly, nutritious and tasty foods.
Give your child a choice of three colours. Ask them what colours they want to cook with today. Find a food that is the colour they choose and make a meal out of it. It’s amazing how creative and fun this can be! Plus, it will increase their familiarity with new foods, which increases the likelihood of food acceptance3,4.
Know your Nutrients!
The Internet provides a wealth of information about nutrition. Learning about what nutrients are in the foods you eat is a great step for yourself and your kids to learn more about food. Each day focus on one food, and find out its key nutrients. Start here by using our nutritional comparison tool to learn about the nutrients in chicken and several chicken recipes. You can create a book with your child to document all the knowledge you have gained!
Safe Kitchen, Safe Food
One huge part of having food skills is an understanding of food safety and proper handling of food. Children should learn food safety skills to prevent bad habits from forming as they get older. Make a point of educating your child on proper handling of foods such as meat, chicken, fish, seafood, vegetables, and fruits. When handling meat it’s important to clean, separate, cook, and chill. Also, always promote proper hand washing when handling food. It is recommended to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after touching foods5.
Grow Healthy Eaters!
There are many ways children learn healthy eating habits. One of the best ways is to help your kids increase their food skills and get them excited about food and nutrition. Children learn best in a fun, interactive environment. You are their best teacher, so help build a kitchen classroom to help guide your child towards a positive relationship with food!
- Chenhall, C. (2010). Improving Cooking and Food Preparation Skills: A Synthesis of the Evidence to Inform Program and Policy Development. (Catalogue No. H164-123/1-2010E-PDF). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Health. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/child-enfant/cfps-acc-synthes-eng.php
- Chenhall, C. (2010). Improving Cooking and Food Preparation Skills: A Profile of Promising Practices in Canada and Abroad. (Cat. No.: H164-123/2-2010E-PDF). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Health. Retrieved October 1, 2012, www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/child-enfant/cfps-acc-profil-apercu-eng.php
- Black, M. & Hurley, K. (2007). Helping Children Develop Healthy Eating Habits. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from www.child-encyclopedia.com/documents/Black-HurleyANGxp_rev-Eating.pdf
- Forthun, L. (2012). Family Nutrition: Parenting and Family Life. Retrieved October 1, 2012, fromedis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1059
- Canadian Partnership for Consumer Safety and Education. (2012). Food Safety Tips: Fact Sheets. Retrieved November 15, 2012, from canfightbac.org/cpcfse/en/safety/safety_factsheets/clean/