It is Sunday night. The kids are in bed. You can breathe a sigh of relief. The school holidays are finally over.
Do you feel like you’ve exhausted all of your entertainment options over the holidays?
Why not get your kids in the kitchen one night this week or perhaps next weekend?
In addition to being a great family activity, research suggests there a multitude of health benefits your children gain by helping you in the kitchen.
So what does the research say?
A Canadian study conducted in 2013, discussed the immense benefits of including children in the preparation of the family meal. These benefits included:
- Higher fruit and vegetable intakes
- High proportion of micronutrient targets met
- Lower consumption of fat, fried-food and sugar sweetened beverages
- Encourages children to try a wider variety of food
- Children were more interested in nutrition
- Children had greater self-efficacy in selecting healthy foods
- Children consumed overall a much healthier diet
Furthermore, a study published in 2006 found similar results when looking at involving adolescents in the family meal preparation. Adolescents who assisted in the kitchen had:
- Lower intake of total fat
- Higher fruit and vegetable intakes
- Higher micronutrient intakes, in particular fibre, folate and Vitamin A.
- Lower intakes of carbonated beverages and fried food
Another study published in 2014 draws our awareness to the fact that this message in nothing new. In fact, in the 1980’s research emerged suggesting that involving children in food preparation could increase their intake of vegetables. Other benefits included:
- A greater nutrition awareness including origin of foods and the role food plays in energy balance
- A clear correlation between cooking enjoyment and eating enjoyment
- An overall higher diet quality with children less likely to be ‘fussy eaters.’
Why is this something we need to focus on?
From 1985-1995, the number of Australian children who were either overweight or obese more than doubled.
The most recent data collected by the National Health Survey between 2014-2015, showed that 27.4% of children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese.
Obese children have a 25-50% chance of becoming obese adults. For obese adolescents, this likelihood increases to 78%.
There are a wide array of medical complications which can result from children becoming overweight or obese. These include:
- Type Two Diabetes Mellitus
- Sleep disturbances
- Tiredness and inability to concentrate
- Decreased self esteem
- Low mood
This seems like such a large issue. What are we doing as a nation to fix this?
There are already some wonderful initiatives in place to help our children get the best start in life. This post will have a look at two initiatives which by now are household names; Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program and the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food.
Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program:
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program (SAKGP) was established in 2004 as a result of the ‘obesity epidemic.’ This epidemic has been speculated to be largely due to our lack of knowledge of how to prepare fresh, nutritious and wholesome food.
Within the first two years of its implementation, the SAKGP showed the following results:
- Clear changes in children’s attitudes, knowledge, skills and self-efficacy in gardening and meal-preparation
- Increased willingness to try new foods
Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food:
Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food was established in 2010 due to the lack of basic food preparation skills amongst adults.
The philosophy behind the program is that by teaching people to cook for themselves, this empowers them with the skills and knowledge required to live healthier, happier lives.
Since it’s implementation, Jamie’s Ministry of Food has displayed the following results:
- Increased cooking confidence
- Increase in healthy eating behaviours
- Increased self-efficacy in participants involvement to prepare healthy meals which are simple and cost effective.
- Participants are consuming more fruit and vegetables than their nationwide counterparts
- Increased consumption of meals at home
- Increased self-esteem and general overall health
So where does this leave me?
You are already one step ahead of the rest. You are purchasing this beautiful produce from FarmGate Online. Your children know where food comes from. They are aware of the farm-to-table concept. You are probably already cooking with your children. This post has just inspired you to get them involved just that bit more frequently.
So how can I get the kids involved?
The Raising Children Website has some wonderful tips for involving your children in the family meal preparation. For your ease, I’ve paraphrased them below.
Cooking with toddlers:
This requires a lot of patience on your behalf. Choose tasks which are short and simple such as:
- Washing fruit and vegetables
- Retrieving items from fridge/pantry
- Passing utensils
- Mixing batters or tossing salads.
- Fruit salad is a great one to prepare together as it is quick and involves lots of different colours and textures.
Cooking with preschoolers:
Discuss why different foods are healthy. Introduce the layering concept such as sandwich fillings or creating a yoghurt ‘parfait.’ This is also a great way to introduce your child to basic numeracy skills when following a recipe.
You could also try some of the following:
- Homemade dips
- Fruit salad with yoghurt
- Healthy muffins – let your child add dried fruit, mashed banana, grated carrot and stir it all together
- Roasted vegetables – let your child help out with counting, peeling and chopping (depending on your child’s age)
Cooking with school-age children:
This is a great age to get your children involved in making menu suggestions such as which vegetables they would like to include in their meal. You can also teach your children about seasonal produce (Tip: you can do this whilst you unpack your FarmGate Online order).
It is also a great age to get your children to help create their own healthy lunch box.
You might like to try slightly more complex kitchen creations like:
- Fried rice or stir-fries
- Homemade muesli with nuts and seeds
Cooking with teenagers:
This is where you can teach your teenager independence in the kitchen. Why not get them to adhere to a budget? Or get them to make a meal with leftover produce in the fridge.
They can try more complex recipes such as:
Family-friendly menu ideas:
- Breakfast on school mornings can be a nightmare. Why not get your kids to help you prepare breakfast the night before with this Bircher Muesli recipe found in my previous post? The kids can help with measuring the ingredients, mixing them all together and portioning them out into bowls for the morning. A nutritious way to start the day.
- Liked the idea of a breakfast parfait? Try the granola recipe from my post about ginger and get the kids to layer this with fresh fruit and greek yoghurt.
- Did last week’s post inspire you to cook with quinoa? Have a go at this Quinoa Fried ‘Rice’ recipe. Get the kids to choose which vegetables they wish to include from your FarmGate Online order.
- Looking for a sweet treat the whole family will love? These Frozen Banana Lollies are sure to be a clear winner.
Recipe inspiration for the week:
Needing something just a little more exciting to spark your little one’s attention in the kitchen?
These Zucchini and Corn Pirate Boats should do just that. A fun twist on the usual veggies served at dinner.
Serve these with your favourite protein and carbohydrate for a complete meal.
Nutrition Composition Per Serve:
|Kilojoules||Protein (g)||Fat (g)||Saturated Fat (g)||Carbohydrates (g)||Fibre (g)||Sodium (mg)||Calcium (mg)|
What does this nutrition composition mean for me?
The following information is according to the Food Standards Code Australia and New Zealand.
A serve of the Zucchini & Corn Pirate Boat is:
- A good source of protein (>10g/serve)
- An excellent source of fibre (>7g/serve)
- Low in sodium (<120mg/100g)
As always, feel free to comment below with recipe inspiration or head over to the FarmGate Online Facebook Group and show me what you’ve created.