Letting Your Child Help Out May Be The Secret In Getting Them To Eat

If your kids turn up their noses at the broccoli casserole you just baked and ask instead for a peanut butter sandwich, don't lose your cool. Instead, tie an apron on them, put a spoon in their hands, and let them begin learning the joys of cooking!
Susan Y. Attiyah

Let them get their hands messy
Are your children picky eaters? Are you looking for ways to encourage them to eat more? It seems every parent goes through the challenge of dealing with their kids' eating habits. One solution is to get them involved in meal preparation. They'll enjoy getting their hands messy and at the end will be able to say, "I helped Mommy make this!" It makes children happy to know they were your "big helpers" for the day.

Kym Muckler notes, "The other day my kids made Nacho Flowers all by themselves. It's sour cream and salsa mixed together and scooped in the center of a plate. They then put nacho chips around it to form the petal of the flower. Then they sprinkle shredded cheese, onion and tomatoes over the flowers. They were so cute and proud of these."

Cooking lessons teach responsibility and cleanliness
Kids learn about responsibility and cleanliness when they help out in the kitchen. It also shows them it takes a lot of time to prepare a meal, and that it doesn't automatically prepare itself. If you're not ready to have your kids help out in the kitchen, there are many other ways they can help. For example, setting the table, planting a vegetable garden or even grocery shopping. Have them plan menus for lunch or dinner the next day. If they choose the meal they are more likely to eat it.

"My kids (ages four and six) each has one day a week when they are responsible for preparing all the meals for that day," says Yvette De Luca, freelance writer and mother of two. "We do this for many reasons. Both girls are fiercely independent, and enjoy being responsible for a portion of household chores. Menu planning, making a list, shopping and cooking are wonderful learning activities for young children. My oldest gets to practice planning a healthful meal, thinking ahead to plan the shopping list, writing and reading, money management. I give them a specific amount of money they can spend. If they go over they have to ask me for the extra and figure out why they went over. Plus they are both learning how to cook. They both love being in charge of family meals one day a week. And they have their specialty dishes."

Meals on the run
Parents nowadays are always on the run. All week long they go between practices, games and school events. You may be in a hurry and need something quick to eat -- maybe your kids can even make it.

Stephany Hanson has her kids make a simple snack that is easy to take along anywhere. It is called a "Peanut Butter Roll-Up." Spread peanut butter (and jelly if desired) on a tortilla and roll it up. "It is easy to eat, and not too messy."

Help kids choose a balanced diet
It also seems that children are learning more and more how to eat the vegetarian way. There are plenty of healthy vegetarian meals you can prepare. And you have many choices to substitute your meat portion. It is your responsibility as a parent to provide foods that meet nutritional needs and to encourage healthful choices. Follow the Food Pyramid and teach it to your children.

The Food Pyramid suggests the following:

Dairy - 2 to 3 servings
Meat - 2 to 3 servings (or meat substitute for vegetarian diets)
Fruit - 2 to 4 servings
Vegetables - 3 to 5 servings
Bread group - 6 to 11 servings.

So go and put an apron on your children and enjoy cooking together. Make mealtime enjoyable!

Some fun recipes to try
Here are some recipes your kids can easily help prepare and that are fun to eat.

Tuna Salad in an Ice-cream Cone
2 cans of tuna in water
Handful of olives
2 green onions
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
3 dill pickles
Ice cream cones

Mix tuna and yogurt in a bowl. Cut up green onion, olives, and pickles into small pieces. Add the tuna. Spoon into ice-cream cones. Makes 2 cones for kids and another 3 for adults.

Bean Dip
1 envelope Taco seasoning
16 oz. Sour cream
1/2 C. Mayonnaise
4 cans Rosarita refried Beans
2 Cups Shredded Cheese (mixed mozzarella & cheddar)
Vegetables: Tomato, Green Onion, Black Olives slices, Jalepeno, etc. (Cut all vegetables into small pieces)
Tortilla chips

In a deep baking dish, spread all cans of beans evenly. In a bowl, mix taco seasoning, sour cream, and mayonnaise. Spread mix over beans. Sprinkle cheese all over the spread. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted. Once cooled, add the vegetables you enjoy. Serve warm to cool. Best served with Restaurant style tortilla chips.

Kids really enjoy preparing this meal/appetizer because of all of the vegetables and cheese they can spread all over the dish. And they can even mix the ingredients. Also, it is a meal they love to eat.

Mini Pizza
English Muffin
Spaghetti Sauce
Cheese, Grated
Pepperoni (optional)
Other pizza toppings: olives, mushrooms, bell pepper

Spread spaghetti sauce on muffin. Then add the cheese and anything else you would like on your pizza. Set in oven for 15 minutes and at 350 degrees.

Kids love to eat pizza, and making it is even better because they get to make it they way they like it.PregnancyAndBaby.com

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