Thanksgiving for Picky Eaters

​​Thanksgiving — a holiday full of elaborate food traditions—can be extra challenging for parents of picky eaters. Who wants a holiday dinner turned into a battle zone filled with whispered bargaining? Fortunately, with a little planning, you can create a balanced Thanksgiving meal the whole family will enjoy! Here are some tips to appease picky eaters without sacrificing nutrition, straying from Thanksgiving traditions, or creating a lot of extra work.

Choose at least one food you know your child will like. Whether Thanksgiving will be served at your house or if you will be going to someone else’s home to celebrate, make sure to offer or bring at least one food that you know your child will like. This way, your child is guaranteed to eat something during the meal; it also shows your child you care about his or her preferences when planning meals.

Engage your child in meal planning. Ask your child if he or she would be interested in helping you plan the Thanksgiving feast. Let him or her know you plan to offer at least one protein, a grain, a vegetable, and fruit. You can tell your child about any foods you are definitely planning to include (i.e., turkey as a protein and stuffing as a grain), but ask if he or she has ideas for the other food groups. For example, “What kind of vegetable do you think we should include? How about a fruit?” Then, together find recipes that use those foods as ingredients. A child who helps choose a food that will be offered is much more likely to actually eat it.

Engage your child in meal prep. Invite your children in the kitchen to help prepare your Thanksgiving meal. For example, ask your toddler to help clean the vegetables, or your school-aged child to help mash the potatoes, or your teenager to boil the cranberries. When kids help cook food, they often sample what they are preparing, and are more likely to eat their masterpieces later.

Use food bridges. Once a food is accepted, find similarly colored, flavored, or textured “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods your child will eat. For example, if your child likes pumpkin pie, try including mashed sweet potatoes on his or her Thanksgiving plate.

Make it look, smell, and taste delicious. Many times kids think that they won’t like a food before they actually try it. By making a Thanksgiving dish look, smell, and taste delicious you up the odds that your child will try it out, like it, and come back for more. Do this by adding fragrant ingredients such a nutmeg and cinnamon to cooked apples—for example—or preparing a veggie tray with the vegetables arranged in the shape of a turkey.

Keep the mealtime relaxing and enjoyable. Focus on enjoying your time together celebrating this day of gratitude. Know you have prepared a balanced meal and taken many efforts to engage your children in the process—increasing the chances of there being at least one food they will like. You have done your job. Try not to worry if and what your child is eating.


Source: Section on Obesity (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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Breakfast for Learning

​Nearly half of all American families regularly skip breakfast. Is your family one of them? When it comes to getting your children to school, a healthy breakfast is just as important as gym shoes and sharp pencils.
How Breakfast Betters Your Child

Breakfast has been associated with everything from:

  • Better memory
  • Better test scores
  • Better attention span to decreased irritability
  • Healthier body weights
  • Improved overall nutrition

Rise & Dine
It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected.

If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal.

Breakfast-Made-Easier Tips for Parents

Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.

Schedule accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you. What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.

Fix breakfast before bedtime. In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foods on hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time or having your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).

Grab-and-go breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.

Make sure sleep is on the menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.

Broaden your horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk.

Look for child care and school support. Be sure to check out what breakfast options your child’s school or child care provider offers. With much-deserved attention now being paid to the food our children eat in out-of-home settings, you’re more likely to find balanced breakfast options on the menu, and your child may well be more receptive to eating them if all of his friends are eating alongside him.


Source: Healthy Children E-Magazine, Back to School 2012. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids

While meals make up the majority of a child’s nutritional intake, most children eat at least one snack per day. While many of the most commonly offered kids’ snacks tend to be of lower nutritional value than meals, snacks still can support—or even enhance—your child’s overall healthy eating plan. Here’s how:

  • Use snack times as a way to increase fruits and vegetable intake. Most kids do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Snack times offer a great opportunity to increase access and exposure to these nutrient-dense foods. Consider pairing them up with dairy products or dairy substitutes (such as grapes and cheese) lean proteins (such as celery and peanut butter), or whole-grain cereals and bread (such as a banana sandwich on whole grain bread).
  • Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home. It is much easier to make easy, healthy snacks when you keep a few key items stocked at home. Ideas include different types of raw vegetables and fruit, yogurt dip, hummus, and cheese sticks.
  • Avoid processed foods and added sugars. Processed foods (made in a factory and sold in bags and boxes) do not have many nutrients and often have a lot of added sugar and salt. In addition, children may become hungry faster after eating processed foods.
  • Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors. Arrange your children’s foods to show the beauty of fresh, brightly colored foods. Talk about the farms where food comes from and the farmers who help grow it.

Source: Section on Obesity (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

School Lunches: You Can Make a Difference

Meal planning for schools is a complicated process. Menus have to allow for a wide range of tastes and restrictions. Budgets are limited. Foods that are available at lowest cost and require the least preparation are often high in fat, sugar, and salt.

According to the School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children set up in 1996, school lunch menus backed by federal subsidies must conform to the current guidelines for health. When it comes to fat, this means that meals may contain no more than 30% of total calories from fat and no more than 10% from saturated fat.

National School Lunch Program: School Requirements for Menu Improvement

It also means that schools taking part in the National School Lunch Program have been required to take the following practical steps to improve menus:

  • Adding more fruits, vegetables, and grains to menus
  • Balancing menus by using foods from each of the 5 groups
  • Reducing overall fat content by serving more vegetarian main courses, less beef and pork, and fewer fried foods
  • Varying menus by serving more ethnic dishes, such as pasta and tacos

Team Nutrition

To back up efforts at the lunchroom level, the US Department of Agriculture set up Team Nutrition, a program to improve children’s eating habits and raise their awareness about the links between food and health. Team Nutrition’s goal is to improve children’s lifelong eating and physical activity habits by using the principles of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This plan involves schools, parents, and the community in efforts to continuously improve school meals, and to promote the health and education of 50 million schoolchildren in more than 96,000 schools nationwide.

How to Get Involved & Make Your Child’s School Healthier

There’s also a push at the state and local levels to help children eat better. In many communities, children at grade-school level are learning not only how to cook food but also how to grow a variety of produce. Courses combine food production and preparation with valuable lessons about history, economics, social science, and math.

If you’re not satisfied with the choices available in your child’s school cafeteria, get involved in your school’s parent-teacher organization and brainstorm some healthful alternatives, as parents and teachers all over the country are doing.

Even if you haven’t the time or resources to revamp the school cafeteria, you may be able to see that the salad bar offers a good selection of raw vegetables and low-fat dressings. Vending machine choices can also be modified to eliminate high-fat and empty-calorie munchies and provide healthy snacks that include more fresh fruit and low-fat dairy products, as well as water and 100% fruit juice instead of sodas.

Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices in the vending machines. Although school administrators fear that they will lose money if they make these changes, schools that have provided healthier options have not lost money or have seen their revenue increase. ​


Source: Bright Futures: Nutrition, 3rd Edition (Copyright © 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Differences in Organic, Natural & Health Foods

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings.

  • Organic foods are grown without artificial pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides. Organic meat, eggs, and dairy products are obtained from animals that are fed natural feed and not given hormones or antibiotics.
  • Natural foods are free of synthetic or artificial ingredients or additives.
  • “Health foods” is a general term that may be applied to natural or organic foods, or to regular foods that have undergone less processing than usual, such as stone-ground whole-grain flours.

Although some have claimed that organic foods have a higher concentration of some nutrients, the evidence is mixed. The nutritional content of foods also varies greatly according to when the food was harvested and how it has been stored or processed. Unless they are fresher, there is also no evidence that organic, natural, or health foods taste better than regular foods. However, taste is determined by plant genetics, rather than by whether the crop is organically or conventionally grown. Harvesting and handling also affect taste. A peach or tomato that is picked when it is too green will never develop the full taste of fruit that is allowed to ripen on the tree or the vine.

Although the type of fertilizer may not affect taste or nutrition, it does have an effect on the environment. Many people prefer to pay premium prices for organic foods because their production does not cause environmental damage from pesticides and herbicides, and composted fertilizers help restore soil and are not as damaging to the environment as artificial fertilizers. However, simply stating “organic” does not protect the food from being contaminated from field to market.


Source: Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2011). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Choosing Healthy Snacks for Kids

Fresh Fruits And Berries On White Background

While meals make up the majority of a child’s nutritional intake, most children eat at least one snack per day. While many of the most commonly offered kids’ snacks tend to be of lower nutritional value than meals, snacks still can support—or even enhance—your child’s overall healthy eating plan. Here’s how:

Use snack times as a way to increase fruits and vegetable intake.
Most kids do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Snack times offer a great opportunity to increase access and exposure to these nutrient-dense foods. Consider pairing them up with dairy products or dairy substitutes (such as grapes and cheese) lean proteins (such as celery and peanut butter), or whole-grain cereals and bread (such as banana sandwich on whole grain bread).

Keep a range of healthy foods handy at home. It is much easier to make easy, healthy snacks when you keep a few key items stocked at home. Ideas include different types of raw vegetables and fruit, yogurt dip, hummus, and cheese sticks.

Avoid processed foods and added sugars. Processed foods (made in a factory and sold in bags and boxes) do not have many nutrients and often have a lot of added sugar and salt. In addition, children may become hungry faster after eating processed foods. See Snacks & Sugary Foods in School: AAP Policy Explained for more information.

Teach your children to eat a rainbow of colors.
Arrange your children’s foods to show the beauty of fresh, brightly colored foods. Talk about the farms where food comes from and the farmers who help grow it.

Snack Ideas for Families



Source: Section on Obesity (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label: What Parents Need to Know

​In May 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a number of changes to the current Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The changes reflect new scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. In addition, the new label will make it easier for families to make informed decisions about the food they eat. Here are some highlights of the new nutrition facts label:

Refreshed design

  • Increased type size for “Calories,” “servings per container,” and “Serving size”
  • Bolded number of calories and the “Serving size”
  • Changed Daily Value footnote to read: “The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”

Reflection of updated information about nutrition science

  • Included “added sugars” in grams and as % Daily Value on label
  • Updated list of nutrients required or permitted to be declared on the label
  • Removed “Calories from Fat” from the label
  • Updated Daily Values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D

Update to serving sizes and labeling requirements for certain package sizes

  • By law, serving sizes must now be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. How much people eat and drink has changed since the previous serving size requirements were published in 1993. For example, the reference amount used to set a serving of ice cream was previously ½ cup but is changing to ⅔ cup. The reference amount used to set a serving of soda is changing from 8 ounces to 12 ounces.
  • Packages between one and two servings now require the calories and other nutrients to be labeled as one serving, because people typically consume it in one sitting. Package size affects what people eat.
  • Manufacturers must provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package”/”per unit” basis for certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. With dual-column labels available, you will be able to easily understand how many calories and nutrients you are getting if you eat or drink the entire package/unit at one time.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why must “added sugars” now be included?
The scientific evidence underlying the 2010 and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans support reducing caloric intake from added sugars; and expert groups such as the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Institute of Medicine and the World Health Organization also recommend decreasing intake of added sugars. See the AAP policy statement, Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools, for more information.

In addition, it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie requirements if you consume more than 10% of your total daily calories from added sugars. On average, Americans get about 13% of their total calories from added sugars, with the major sources being sugar-sweetened beverages (including soft drinks, fruit drinks, coffee and tea, sport and energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages) and snacks and sweets (including grain-based desserts, dairy desserts, candies, sugars, jams, syrups, and sweet toppings).

The FDA recognizes that added sugars can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern. But if consumed in excess, it becomes more difficult to also eat foods with enough dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals and still stay within calorie limits. The updates to the label will help increase awareness of the quantity of added sugars in foods. You may or may not decide to reduce the consumption of certain foods with added sugars, based on your individual needs or preferences. The final rule requires “Includes X g Added Sugars” to be included under “Total Sugars” to help you understand how much sugar has been added to the product.

Why is trans fat still on the label if the FDA is phasing it out?
Trans fat will be reduced but not eliminated from foods, so FDA will continue to require it on the label. In 2015, the FDA published a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the source of artificial trans fat, are not generally recognized as safe, but this determination would not affect naturally occurring trans fat, which would still exist in the food supply. Trans fat is present naturally in food from some animals, mainly ruminants such as cows and goats. Also, industry can currently use some oils that are approved as food additives and can still petition FDA for certain uses of PHOs.

Why are vitamin D and potassium being added to the Nutrition Facts label?
Vitamin D and potassium are nutrients Americans don’t always get enough of, according to nationwide food​ consumption surveys, and when lacking, are associated with increased risk of chronic disease. Vitamin D is important for its role in bone health, and potassium helps to lower blood pressure. Calcium and iron are already required and will continue to be on the label.

Why are you no longer requiring vitamins A and C?
In the early 1990s, American diets lacked Vitamins A and C, but now Vitamins A and C deficiencies in the general population are rare. Manufacturers are still able to list these vitamins voluntarily.

How much time will manufacturers have to make these changes?
Manufacturers will have until July 26, 2018 to comply with the final requirements, and manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to make the changes.

Will the new requirements apply to imported food?
Yes, foods imported to the United States will need to meet the final requirements.​


Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Breakfast for Learning

​Nearly half of all American families regularly skip breakfast. Is your family one of them? When it comes to getting your children to school, a healthy breakfast is just as important as gym shoes and sharp pencils.

Breakfast has been associated with everything from:

  • Better memory
  • Better test scores
  • Better attention span to decreased irritability
  • Healthier body weights
  • Improved overall nutrition

Rise & Dine
It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected.

If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal.
Breakfast-Made-Easier Tips for Parents

Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.

  • Schedule accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you. What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.
  • Fix breakfast before bedtime. In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foods on hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time or having your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).
  • Grab-and-go breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.
  • Make sure sleep is on the menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.
  • Broaden your horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk.
  • Look for child care and school support. Be sure to check out what breakfast options your child’s school or child care provider offers. With much-deserved attention now being paid to the food our children eat in out-of-home settings, you’re more likely to find balanced breakfast options on the menu, and your child may well be more receptive to eating them if all of his friends are eating alongside him.


Source: Healthy Children E-Magazine, Back to School 2012. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Healthy Teeth and Your Child’s Diet

dentalhealth2

Besides regular tooth brushing, your child’s diet will play a key role in his dental health.

Why Sugar is the Big Villain
The longer and more frequently his teeth are exposed to sugar, the greater the risk of cavities. “Sticky sugar” foods such as sticky caramel, toffee, gum, and dried fruit—particularly when it stays in his mouth and bathes his teeth in sugar for hours—could do serious damage.

  • Make sure to always brush your child’s teeth after a sugary food item.
  • Do not allow young children to have any sugar-containing liquid in a sippy cup for a prolonged period. See How to Prevent Tooth Decay in Your Baby.

How to Cut Down on Sweets
Almost everyone naturally enjoys sweets, and your child is no different. Like other human beings, she was born with a taste for sugar, and she’s already quite sensitive to different concentrations of sweetness. Offer her a yam and a baked potato, and she’ll take the yam every time. Give her a choice between the yam and a cookie, and the cookie will win.

Rest assured, it’s not your fault if she makes a beeline for the candy and ice cream when you’d rather she take a piece of cheese. But it is your responsibility to limit her access to sweets and to provide a diet made up primarily of more nutritious foods that promote growth, not tooth decay.

TV Advertising
Television advertising, incidentally, can be a serious obstacle to your child’s good nutrition. Some studies show that children who watch over twenty-two hours of TV per week (over three hours of screen time a day) have a greater tendency to become obese. Children are extremely receptive to ads for sugary cereals and sweets, especially after they’ve visited other homes where these foods are served. Obesity is a growing problem among children in America. For this reason, you need to be aware of your young child’s eating habits, at home and away, and monitor them to make sure she’s eating as healthy as possible.

At Home

To combat outside influences, keep your own home as healthy as possible. Stock up on low-sodium, low-sugar, and low-fat products. Eventually he’ll become accustomed to healthful foods, which may make him less susceptible to the temptation of the more sugary, salty, or greasy ones.


Source: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 6th Edition (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


5 Great Reasons to Cook with Your Kids

When it comes to raising an adventurous eater, it is not just about coaxing kids to eat their veggies. Bringing up a child who can enjoy a cantaloupe as much as a cupcake takes patience and persistence, but it does not have to feel like a chore.

Kids may need to have frequent joyful experiences involving food to overcome the anxiety they may have around tasting the unfamiliar. Over time, cooking with your children can help build that confidence—and provide rich sensory experiences.
Here are five ways to enjoy cooking with your children while raising an adventurous eater along the way.

  1. Engage other senses. For a hesitant eater, tasting an unfamiliar food can sometimes be intimidating. You can help your child explore foods when cooking using other senses besides taste. This helps to build positive associations with food. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, and tearing lettuce all involve touching food and being comfortable with texture. The complex flavors we experience when eating food come from both taste sensations from the tongue AND smelling with the nose. While cooking with new ingredients, some children may feel too overwhelmed to taste. If this happens, you can try suggesting smelling a food first; this may provide a bridge to tasting in the future.
  2. Use cooking to raise smart kids. There are so many lessons that can be taught while cooking. Math concepts like counting, measurement, and fractions naturally unfold when navigating a recipe with kids. Explaining how food changes with temperature or how certain foods can help our body be healthy provide great lessons in science. While cooking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how food looks, feels, and tastes. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects.
  3. Make cooking part of the family culture. The family meal can start in the kitchen as you cook together. Family meal preparation is an opportunity to celebrate your cultural heritage by passing down recipes. Help your kids find new, seasonal recipes to add to your repertoire and family cookbook. Cooking together and prioritizing health over the convenience of processed food are great ways to lead by example and help your children buy into a culture of wellness. Building daily and seasonal traditions around cooking together helps strengthen your family’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Keep it safe. Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat, and how to turn appliances on and off safely. Always supervise children when cooking to ensure they are sticking with safe and age-appropriate tasks. The best way to keep cooking safe is to know your child’s abilities and his or her stage of development. A four-year-old child, for example, may not be ready to sauté vegetables over a hot pan, but may have the fine motor skills to rinse fruits or tear salad leaves. Keeping safety in mind, it is not difficult to get kids—even toddlers—involved in the kitchen.
  5. Ask for input. Children feel more included in mealtime when they are asked to be a part of meal preparation. Collaborate with your kids when selecting recipes for main dishes or sides. Let them help you make the shopping list and find groceries in the store or farmers market. When cooking together, let children offer a critique of the foods you are preparing. Together you can decide what ingredients you should add to enhance the flavor. Talk about how people enjoy different tastes, and share your preferences with each other. Letting children be “in charge” of details like how to set the table will help them feel invested in mealtime.

Over many years, cooking as a family will help develop a happy, adventurous eater with some pretty valuable life skills—and plenty of happy memories in the kitchen. With enough practice, your child will someday be able to cook YOU a delicious meal!


Written by Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH, FAAP. Last Updated 12/14/2016. Source: American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2016)