You’ve no doubt been told that one of the best ways to expand your children’s diet is to get them in the kitchen with you, but in reality, it’s not as easy as it sounds. What six-year-old wants to sit and watch as you season a roast chicken or chop vegetables?
Nutritionist, chef and author of Falling in Love with Food Zoe Bingley-Pullin has a different approach – when you cook foods that your children love to make, the job becomes so much easier.
“Getting kids in the kitchen and involved with the food they are eating, at a young age, can help kids to develop a healthy relationship with food,” says Zoe. “It also helps to spark an interest in food, which is likely to result in kids being more receptive to try new foods and eat a wider range of foods.
“Not only this but it also encourages kids to be creative and practice their fine motor and eye-hand coordination skills. As a parent, it’s also nice to have a helper or two in the kitchen.”
So, if you are looking for more ways to get kids involved in meals, here are Zoe’s top meal picks…
“Whenever I ask my daughter what she wants for breakfast, pancakes always make the list!” Zoe says. “Pancakes don’t have to be an unhealthy nor taxing breakfast dish, they can actually be made using very few ingredients. Together my daughter and I mash banana in a bowl, add 1-2 whisked eggs, 1 tbsp. almond meal or oat bran and some shredded coconut. Once cooked, we top the pancakes with thick Greek yoghurt and berries or simply just some nut butter.”
If your kids are too young to help with pouring the batter into the fry pan, they can instead be on ‘bubble watch duty’ and keep an eye out for when the bubbles appear because this means they are ready to flip!
Pizza is much loved by kids and doesn’t have to be an unhealthy meal choice. In fact, homemade pizza ticks a lot of nutritional boxes. Zoe’s key tips on how to turn homemade pizza into a healthy meal are as follows:
- Base: make your own base using wholemeal flour, chickpea flour or cauliflower. If purchasing a premade base opt for a wholemeal or spelt base or even use a multigrain wrap.
- Base sauce: stick to using tomato paste or for something different try hummus.
- Veggies: use an array of veggies as a topping choice such as tomato, capsicum, mushrooms, onion, small broccoli florets, kale, rocket, spinach, corn, celery, roasted zucchini or eggplant.
- Protein: most kids are pretty happy with cheese on pizza and other options could be salmon, tuna, chicken or lean minced meat.
To get kids involved, set up a workstation with all of the toppings in small bowls or spread over a chopping board. Let kids decorate their own pizza or split one pizza into two and give one half to each kid. This allows kids to get creative and have ownership over their flavour combinations!
If your household is a big fan of taco Tuesday why not try making burrito bowls? Zoe recommends laying out the ingredients in the centre of the table, as this gives kids the opportunity to assemble their own bowls and have fun layering the different ingredients. Kids can also help with the prep of the ingredients such as:
- shredding cabbage or lettuce
- grating cheese
- dicing tomatoes
- picking coriander leaves
- mashing avocado and squeezing lime over it
- spooning Greek yoghurt or hummus into a serving dish
- seasoning the mince or chicken
- measuring the rice/quinoa and water and putting in a saucepan to boil
- rinsing the beans and putting in a bowl
Healthy crumbed fish
Crumbed fish or ‘fish fingers’ is another winner with kids and does not have to come from a packet. Instead, it’s pretty easy to get kids involved with making their own version. Use a crumb mix of wholemeal breadcrumbs, shredded coconut, ground paprika, ground turmeric and combine this with the eggs beaten with a dash of milk. Dip each fish fillet in the crumb mix and gently fry in the pan or bake in the oven. Kids will have fun mixing the crumb ingredients together and then dipping the fish in the mix to coat. This recipe can also be used to coat chicken or even tofu, if preferred.
“The fish is nice paired with a simple Greek salad, roasted sweet potato and yoghurt dipping sauce or even mashed avocado,” Zoe says. “Kids can get involved in all of these elements too!”