I grew up with a single parent in an Italian family where food was not only part of our tradition it was part of our life. Meals with the family consisted of sitting at the table or standing in the kitchen for hours talking, laughing, and sharing. Being raised by a single parent also meant that eating was on a budget. We ate a lot of rice, beans, casseroles, and crock pot dishes. These types of meals are now considered ‘healthy, whole food, plant based meals’. Back then it was just called ‘dinner’. Fast food was not an option except for the occasional, once a month drive through or TV dinner.
While I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother who taught me how to cook. There were many days where we would have food experiments and grandma always smiled as she tried everything I made. Having my grandmother teach me cook, helped provide a solid foundation for nutrition which has continued into my adulthood.
I believe that teaching children how to cook and sharing the meal planning with them is important for their health and for family bonding. This allows children to be involved with their parents and away from the television, video games, etc. Cooking with children also teaches them life skills and healthy eating habits. I hear a lot about what to feed kids but what about also teaching them how to feed themselves?
Here are 5 tips to help you get started:
- Get involved. Maximize your time off on the weekend to enjoy a family breakfast. Use cookie cutters to make fun shaped pancakes. Invite the favorite toys or dolls to sit at the table. Be creative!
- Food is art. Incorporate a rainbow of colors to your dishes. For example, tri color pasta and different colored vegetables.
- Plan meals together. This opens up communication and gets everyone involved.
- Experiment. Add spices like paprika, parsley, pepper, and turmeric which are not only colorful but good for you. Start adding these spices slowly to allow the taste buds time to adjust.
- Have fun. Take a healthy ‘night off’ and make some fun, family comfort food like pizza, popcorn, or cookies.