Kitchen Aid

By Beth Wood

June 5, 2009 6 min read

KITCHEN AID

Learning to cook promotes healthy eating habits for kids

Beth Wood

Creators News Service

Are you worried about your child's eating habits? Anyone up on the news knows that obesity is on the rise among children in the U.S.: According to an article in the April issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, nearly one-fifth of American 4-year-olds are obese.

Whether in preschool, high school or in between, helping children learn their way around a kitchen can promote good eating habits and stem the tide of obesity and diseases like diabetes.

Lisa Druxman, creator and owner of Stroller Strides, an exercise and nutrition company with 900 locations across the country, is concerned that eating at restaurants and picking up fast food contribute to overweight kids.

"By teaching your children the love of cooking, you are building a foundation for healthier eating for their lifetime," Druxman said. "Kids are proud of the food that they make and are more likely to eat it if they participate in the cooking."

Druxman's 7-year-old son, Jacob, is a prime example of the benefits of cooking with children.

"I have invited Jacob to be in the kitchen with me since he was a toddler," she said. "As he has gotten older, I have used cooking to help with reading and math. He has gained confidence and an understanding of basic cooking skills and now likes to venture off and create his own recipes.

"There is always something age-appropriate they can do, whether it's mixing, pouring in an ingredient or setting the table."

If you like a neat and organized kitchen, be prepared: Druxman, who also has a 3-year-old daughter, Rachel, warned that things get a little crazy.

"It's a bit chaotic. The more I let go, the more fun we have," she said. "We have a make-your-own-pizza night. The kids get to make their dough, roll it and put on their own toppings. Flour and toppings are everywhere. But they just love it."

If you need guidance, Web and print resources abound. Druxman recommended "Mom and Me Cookbook" by Annabel Karmel ($13, DK Children), who also wrote "The Toddler Cookbook" ($13, DK Children).

Kidshealth.org, a wide-ranging website of The Nemours Foundation, features nutritious recipes, safety tips and a step-by-step guide called "Cooking with Kids." It also includes recipes for kids with diabetes and those with lactose intolerance.

The Association of Junior Leagues International's kidsinthekitchen.ajli.org also offers healthy recipes for children as well as nutrition-savvy games and activities.

Stretching beyond the kitchen, kids also grow from cultivating a garden. If you don't have an outside space for it, see if a community garden is active nearby or check with your children's school.

"When Jacob was two, we started a garden," Druxman recalled. "It's now a yearly ritual for us. There is nothing more amazing, even for me, than to see a seed turn into a plant and then into something that you eat. We pick our own lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers for our salads and pick our own berries to go on our oatmeal. My kids are so much more interested in eating these things when they come from the garden."

Whether from the garden, farmer's market or grocery store, sharing the whole food process -- from the beginning to the end of a tasty dish -- can make a difference in a child's health now and for a lifetime. Here are some recipes to get started:

JACOB'S GREEN EGG PIZZA DISH

Nonstick cooking spray

1/4 cup chopped frozen spinach

1/2 cup grated cheese

Two eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Yields 1 serving

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a nonstick frying pan with cooking oil. Heat spinach in the pan so it defrosts. In a separate bowl, mix eggs with grated cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Pour into the frying pan with spinach. Mix slightly. Put in the oven until eggs set. Cut into slices and serve like pizza.

-- Recipe courtesy of Lisa Druxman

BLACK BEAN BURGERS

1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained

1/3 cup red onion, chopped

1?2 cup frozen corn

1?2 cup frozen spinach

1?4 cup salsa

1?2 cup low-fat cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon cumin

1?2 cup bread crumbs

whole-wheat pita pockets

Yields 6 servings

Using clean hands, mash beans in large mixing bowl. Add onion, corn, spinach, salsa, cheese and cumin. Mix in bread crumbs gradually until mixture is firm enough to form patties, adding more if necessary. Form into 12 small patties.

Cook in non-stick saut? pan over medium-high heat for 3 minutes per side or bake in 375 F oven for 15 minutes, turning once. Patties can also be grilled for 3 minutes per side. Serve in whole-wheat pita pockets.

-- Recipe courtesy of Christina L. Rutan/kidsinthekitchen.ajli.org.

FUN FRUIT KABOBS

1 apple

1 banana

1/3 cup red seedless grapes

1/3 cup green seedless grapes

2/3 cup pineapple chunks

1 cup nonfat yogurt

1/4 c. dried coconut, shredded

Yields 4 servings

Wash grapes. Wash apples and cut into small squares. Peel bananas and cut into chunks. Cut the pineapple into chunks, if fresh.

Spread coconut onto another large plate. Slide pieces of fruit onto the skewer. Do this until the stick is almost covered from end to end. Hold your kabob at the ends and roll in yogurt, so fruit gets covered. Then roll in coconut. Repeat with another skewer.

-- Recipe courtesy of kidshealth.org

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