Tag Archives: kids

Teaching Kids to Cook

I’ve seen quite a few parents share lofty goals of things they’d like to teach their kids during this time of staying at home. Teaching kids how to cook frequently shows up on that list. As this period of staying at home has gone on, I’ve also seen most of those people post that they aren’t accomplishing most of the goals.

First, I want to say that is 100% ok to not accomplish the goals and just move on. This is a difficult time for all of us in different ways. Doing your best is all you can do.

I will be honest, I had lofty goals of things to accomplish for MYSELF, but didn’t really think about goals with my kids. Sadly, I haven’t accomplished most of my personal goals. And that’s ok. The answer to most things in this post is “that’s ok”.

Why? The most important part of teaching your kid any life skill is actually building a positive relationship with your child and having a positive experience. So do what you have to do and that’s ok. Repeat it to yourself.

However, I have actually randomly had a fair amount of success cooking with my kids during this time. This isn’t something that comes naturally for me, actually. And we have plenty of failures. But today, I thought I’d show some tips I’ve found to work for me and my kids in the kitchen. If you have any, please share in the comments. (None of the links in this post are sponsored or affiliate links. I get nothing from you clicking them. Just passing on information.)

1) Find something that makes your kid(s) excited to cook. There are subscription services out there that can be very fun, like Raddish. My daughter got a cookbook for her birthday that has really set her cooking dreams aflame. We are liking that one, but there are plenty of options out there. During this time of quarantine, America’s Test Kitchen has opened up their kid website for free. Not everything is open, but a lot is. And their kid’s club is discounted right now as well. But you don’t need any of these “official” things. Just ask your kid what they want to make and find a recipe somewhere. If they are old enough, have them find the recipe.

2) If you have multiple children, only cook with one at a time. This has caused huge breakthroughs in our house. I used to always try and cook with everyone. It just led to fights between the kids and me yelling. By going individually, things go much smoother. Does it mean my other kids sometimes watch tv? Yes, and that’s ok. Not only does this eliminate fighting amongst the kids, it lowers your stress level. You aren’t having to watch more than one kid with a knife or hot stove, etc. Also, kids love one on one time with parents, so it is a win on multiple levels.

3) Make it a “set” thing. As set as you can make it. We don’t have a set night, but my daughter knows she will cook dinner one night a week. When I am menu planning, she picks it out and we put it on the schedule. She knows it is coming and is excited about it. This also makes it a bit easier only allowing one kid in the kitchen – the other’s know when their turns are.

4) Allow for spontaneity. I know that goes against the last one. While we have the set times, if my daughter randomly asks to make breakfast or a dessert, I try to work that in as I can. But if I’m not feeling up to it, I say no. And that’s ok.

5) Be prepared for a mess. A huge mess. As they are making the mess, just take deep breaths. Realize you were going to have to clean up no matter what. If they are old enough (or have cooked enough to know how to not make as much of a mess), make them help clean it up. Nothing like cleaning up your own mess to teach cleaner cooking. But also, it is ok to have messes. It’s part of the process. However, if the mess is getting out of control and raising your stress level, you can end the cooking session with kids at anytime. And that’s ok.

6) You don’t have to let them do everything. A kid with a knife stress you out? Don’t give them one. That’s ok. The kid can’t muster the muscles to mash potatoes (true story at our house)? That’s ok. Every time the kid whisks half of the mix ends up on the counter? Don’t let them whisk. That’s ok. Let them do as much as you can while keeping the experience positive for both of you. If either of you hate it, it won’t keep happening.

7) Keep the end goals in mind. Positive time together. Building a relationship. Some day (far away likely) they will be independent. Teaching some health and life skills. A picture perfect meal with a picture perfect kitchen isn’t in there. And that’s ok.

I hope any of these tips help you out. Let me know if you have any great tips for cooking with kids. We all need all the help we can get!

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Apricot Pecan Bites

Since February is snack food month, I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite snacks. My kids love little bite sized snacks. Even better if they are sweet. But I don’t want them eating a ton of extra sugar. I do want snacks to have protein and fiber.

Enter these little apricot pecan bites. Sweetened almost entirely from fruit (there’s a little added sugar in the nut butter), these are sweet enough for my kids. They also fill you up quickly. We found this recipe at our local children’s museum. So, while kids need a bit of supervision with a food processor blade, this is definitely a snack they can help you make. Enjoy!

Apricot Pecan Bites (Makes about 24 bites)

Apricot Pecan Bites

1 cup dried apricots
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
½ cup dates
½ cup dried cherries
juice of 1 orange
6 tablespoons almond butter

1. Place all of the ingredients except half of the cocunut into a food processor. Blend until smooth.
2. Carefully scoop out about tablespoon size portions and roll into a ball. If it is too sticky, try sticking it in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up first.
3. Roll balls in remaining coconut. Store in refrigerator.

Nutrition Information (amount per bite)

Calories: 141
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 20 mg

Source: our local children’s museum

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Sugary death match: Jelly vs Nutella

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I have a confession to make. I only started eating peanut butter about 4 years ago. That may seem really strange, but it’s true. Hope glimmered in my life back in 2011/2012, and I have since come around. I still am not as big a fan as many people, particularly of peanut butter and chocolate. Which brings us to today’s topic.

We all know the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Most kids love them. Recently, I’ve had more and more mom friends talk about giving their children peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. At first, my nutrition mind screamed, “A chocolate sandwich?” But then I thought for a minute and realized jelly is basically pure sugar. Outside of taste, I wondered if there really is a difference.

Today, I’m breaking down the nutrition for you. Here’s the sandwich: 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter (because creamy is not delicious), and 1 tablespoon of grape jelly OR nutella. All nutrients are in grams, except calories. Ready:

Nutrients       Peanut Butter and Jelly             Peanut Butter and Nutella    
Calories 311 355
Carbohydrates           45 42
Sugars 15 14
Fat 10 16
Protein 12 13

To me, these numbers aren’t incredibly different. I have heard parents argue that there is less sugar and more protein in nutella. While that technically is true in the numbers, one gram either way doesn’t get me excited. The biggest difference is really in calories, which also isn’t huge. In the end, it really comes down to what your child will eat. Either is a decent, if not perfect choice. But don’t try to justify that one is better than the other. Just own it for what it is, the sandwich your child prefers. Happy eating and parenting!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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That food is too tasty for me.

One of my nephews is a bit of a picky eater, and he said this to his dad one night at dinner time. Since it wasn’t my kid, I found it hilarious, but I can sympathize with the pain this brings to a parent.

Kids can be picky eaters. Some of it is learned, but some of it is not. Everyone has different taste and texture preferences. Only a small percentage of the population is actually able to truly taste bitter, so they will naturally be more sensitive to bitter foods. People who struggle with ADHD and some personality disorders can struggle with different textures of food. We can’t control any of that.

What we can control is the environment around food for our children. I believe in Ellyn Satter’s philosophy: parents control what food is available and when the family eats while children control what and how much food they actually eat. As parents, you provide a balanced, nutritious diet of routine meals and snacks. Your child can choose to eat what is provided or not.

As a parent, this is INCREDIBLY difficult at times. I know how frustrating it is to spend time making a meal and then watch your child refuse to eat anything but bread (or fruit or milk) or just refuse to eat at all. For me, dinner is especially frustrating because it is the end of the day which equals the end of my patience. But I know this method works and is worth it.

Some tips on dealing with picky eating:

– Keep trying. Try foods in different forms, different combinations, etc. I loved this article by a fellow dietitian when her onion-hating son asked to order onion rings.

– Expose kids to food away from the table. Take them with you to the grocery store and talk about what you are buying. Point out food in books, movies, TV shows, etc. For example, my daughter received the book “Rah Rah Radishes” as a gift for her birthday. She loves to read it and has since asked for cauliflower. Did she eat it when I made it? No, but she recognized it. Last night, before ignoring the green beans on her plate, she said, “Go green bean!” Recognizing foods is half the battle with some children.

– Make kids feel involved. Let them help you cook or plan the menu as is age appropriate. Even for my two-year old, I let her choose what she eats for lunch from a couple available options. Think about it. So much of life is dictated to children. Letting them feel in control of what they eat can help with some of the power struggles and focus more on the actual food.

– Don’t expect a miracle. Sometimes it happens. Last night, my daughter ate half a fillet of tilapia, which blew my mind. But those moments are fairly rare. Just know that you are creating a good base of food knowledge for your child. And eventually, many kids grow out of it. I don’t think I willingly ate zucchini until I was 17. But now I eat it all the time.

What do you do to make mealtimes more enjoyable with your kids? I’d love to know your tricks or hear your stories in the comments.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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