My five-year-old daughter invented a new sandwich last week: mozzarella on whole wheat pita with sliced green grapes. Delicious!
It was make-your-own sandwich night – always a hit in my household. I lay out different breads, cheeses, vegetables and lean protein choices, and everyone builds their own creation.
Our sandwich night is just one way to give kids hands-on experience with food. There are lots of other ways – all opportunities to get children excited about eating well. Here are some things to try.
Bring your kids to the grocery store. It can serve as a vibrant classroom where lessons in math, reading, geography and science come alive in a fun, interesting way.
- select a new fruit or vegetable that you’ve have never tried before, and search online for a recipe that features it
- learn the difference between everyday foods like apples, and treats such as cookies
- work as a team to ensure the cart includes items from the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide.
Younger kids can:
- complete a treasure hunt to find the foods on your shopping list
- play I Spy in the brightly coloured vegetable and fruit section
- practice math by counting items that they place in the shopping cart.
Older children can:
- read ingredient lists and Nutrition Facts panels
- hone math skills by figuring out which costs more, loose or bagged carrots
- learn about local vs. imported foods. Have them write down a list of where different foods come from, and then check a globe or online atlas for context. Ask your kids how they think foods gets here and what that may cost.
Children who spend more time cooking tend to choose a wider variety of foods and are better equipped to make healthy choices. Plus, sharing kitchen duties gives you a chance to talk about likes and dislikes – especially useful for picky eaters, who may be more apt to try foods when they chose the recipe and help with preparation.
So let your kids cook.
Younger children can:
- learn to make a simple sandwich
- put toppings on pizza
- tear salad greens
- measure and pour ingredients
- stir things together.
Older kids can:
- learn to peel, chop and shred ingredients
- boil water to make pasta
- select and prepare complete recipes: try our Vegetarian coconut chili, Ginger chicken and orzo soup and Cranberry surprise muffins.
Children who learn to make something by themselves develop a sense of independence and a positive self-image.
But what if you don’t cook or bake – how will you teach your children? Start with a reliable cookbook and choose simple recipes with basic techniques – click here for our heart-healthy recipes with lots of kid appeal. Or, take a cooking class with your kids. Many community centres and grocery stores offer affordable classes that accommodate children. Learn something new together!
- Want to get your family eating healthier? Try one small change at a time.
- Kids having a snack attack? Try these healthy substitutes for favourite nibbles.
© – Reproduced with permission of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2012