Helping Kids Eat Healthier

Childhood obesity is a hot topic in the news and the medical community. Childhood obesity has tripled in America since the 1970s. It is estimated that one in five children are obese. The statistics and potential health risks are troubling. However, obesity is only one of many reasons to invite kids into the kitchen.

Learning about your food promotes healthy food choices.

Begin your child's culinary education at an early age. Engage your toddler with the names, shapes, colors, and textures of the produce at the grocery store. Allow preschoolers to assist with bagging purchases and putting them away at home.

Include your child in snack and meal preparation.

Most three and four-year-old children are capable of stirring ingredients or washing fruits and vegetables. Increase participation in age-appropriate activities. Older children may enjoy measuring ingredients, rolling out cookie dough or setting the table. Teenagers may enjoy planning and cooking a family meal or dinner party for friends. Learning to cook may increase self-esteem and promote healthy food choices.

Encourage participation in meal planning.

Children may be more willing to try new foods if they are part of the decision making process. Reward healthy choices but remember an occasional pizza or macaroni and cheese dinner is perfectly acceptable.

Make sure time spent in the kitchen is enjoyable.

Healthy eating should not be perceived as a chore. Indulge a child's interest in cooking by providing toys that inspire culinary creativity. Be sure not to forget the young man in your life. Learning to cook is not just for girls.

Help kids practice cooking with polymer pellets which expand when soaked in water.

Orbeez's Magic Chef Set allows children to crush pellets to create food shaped objects with the provided recipe cards. This toy has received accolades from grateful parents for its ability to keep children occupied for long periods of time.

Classic toys like The Easy-Bake Oven allow kids to produce actual food in a kid-safe oven.

Inspired by the television show of the same name the Master Chef Junior cooking sets are designed to inspire budding cooks. Each set includes actual cooking utensils and recipes designed for every skill level.

It is imperative a child does not confuse playing with a toy and actual cooking.

Adult supervision is crucial whenever kids are in the kitchen. Educate your child about the dangers of ovens, knives and bubbling pots. Teach proper food handling procedures such as hand washing techniques and directing coughs or sneezes away from the food.

Many people consider microwave ovens a fairly safe appliance. This does not make them kid-friendly. Hundreds of children are injured annually by microwave accidents. Stress the importance of using only microwave-safe cookware. Supervise the child until you are confident in their ability to use the microwave safely. A child should be able to read and understand cooking directions and the oven's keypad before using it independently.

Including your child in the cooking process may not produce a five-star chef but it does promote communication and may decrease time spent in front of the television or computer screen. Recreating Grandma's favorite recipe lends the perfect opportunity to share family anecdotes with your child.

Inviting your kids into the kitchen can be the beginning of countless family traditions and treasured memories.

Written by Guest Author for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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