Cooking for Kids

Ever notice how kids have radar when it comes to finding foods rich in sugar, fat and salt? Sometimes it seems as if the more unhealthy the food, the more the kids love it.

This syndrome has alarmed many a concerned parent. And parents have cause for concern. Childhood obesity in the United States has risen to 54 percent of all six to eleven year olds. Societal trends steer children away from physical activity to activities like watching television, playing video games or surfing the "net". This trend coupled with an intake of calorie-rich convenience foods can result in obese children. And obese children are more likely become obese adults. What is a concerned parent to do?

Young girl eating blackberriesSteer clear from restrictive diets and focus on healthy eating patterns and sound nutrition. Provide a lot of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean meats. Restrain from referring to foods as "forbidden". There are no "bad" foods, only ones chosen less often. Set a good example by following a healthy diet yourself. Take a look at your diet. Is it one you would want your kids to follow? Children tend to learn what they see, not what they hear.

Encourage daily physical activity. Exercise with your kids whenever possible. Walk or ride a bike after dinner.

Encourage autonomy by allowing the child to regulate the quantity of food they eat. This will help them recognize their body's signals for hunger and satiety. Remember, our job as parents is to provide nutritious meals; it is the children's job to determine how much to eat.

Eating is an area where children can assert control in their lives. This is why it is important not to force children to eat a particular food. If they reject a dish, simply remove it and offer it another time. Keep snacks to a minimum. Hungry children are a lot more receptive to new or different foods. Let them get involved in food preparation and let them serve themselves. This also helps increase the acceptance of a new dish.

Above all, keep your cool. Do not make an issue around food. Making food an eating an emotionally charged arena will inspire emotional eating with your children. You want your children to eat because they are hungry, not because they are upset. The foods and the habits you model to them will be the basis for their behavior in the future.

Tips for Healthy Eating for Children

  • Let kids make their own dinner: try topping half of an english muffin with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. Place under the broiler for a few minutes.
  • Salad not a big hit at your house? Let kids dip fresh vegetables, like carrots or cauliflower, in a dip made with equal parts of low-fat cottage cheese and grated cheese.
  • Disguise vegetables in minestrone soup. Serve with french bread.
  • You can hide vegetables in pasta primavera.
  • You can also hide vegetables in a pasta salad: Add chopped celery, carrots, broccoli and zucchini to chilled pasta and shredded chicken. Toss with low-fat salad dressing.
  • Most kids hate beans, but love chili: make chili with ground turkey and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  • Make pocket sandwiches with pita bread. Toss shredded chicken and vegetables with low-fat dressing.
  • Let kids assemble their own tacos made with chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, lean ground beef and low-fat grated cheese.
  • Healthy low-fat snacks include fresh fruit, popcorn, pretzels and breadsticks.
  • Low sugar snacks include graham crackers, tea biscuits and bran muffins made with applesauce.
  • Make baked apples for dessert: Core apples. Fill with a mixture of brown sugar, raisins, and nuts. Sprinkle with apple juice and bake until soft.
  • Make tangy yogurt cubes: Combine 6 fluid ounces of undiluted frozen fruit juice concentrate with 8 ounces of plain non-fat yogurt. Freeze in ice cube trays.

Material © San Franisco Spine Center. Used by permission

Updated on: 03/04/16
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Introduction to Nutrition
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Introduction to Nutrition

Good nutrition helps you feel your best and reach your optimal health. But finding time to eat a balanced diet on a daily basis can be a formidable task. Though your life may be hectic, there are still many great, healthy choices to help you lose weight and improve your health.
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