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The Family Kitchen

by Emily Luxford, MS, RD

Let’s cook up a plan to get your kids in the kitchen. Why? The kitchen is a one-stop shop for learning. Cooking allows your children to put their school skills to use: reading, arithmetic, science and creativity. The best part is that cooking is not limited to one age group. And, the product is something good to eat hopefully!

Young children can practice manipulation of utensils such as stirring and measuring. Older children can practice reading and following directions. Teens can experiment with complex multiple step recipes which require time management, knife skills, and safe food handling.

Girl_Mom_Kitchen_LR.jpgGiving children the responsibility of food preparation increases the likelihood they will eat the food. Being the chef means you know what is in the food and you have pride in your accomplishments. This combination makes children more inclined to try new foods. Use this tactic when integrating fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet.

The cooking process, prepping, eating and cleaning, can also bring the family together. And at the same time, help your family learn about the food you enjoy. What is the food’s origin? How is the food cultivated? What nutrients are found in the food you eat?

As a parent, you will appreciate the financial and health benefits to preparing your own meals. Shopping for ingredients and taking time to make your own food is more affordable than purchasing ready-to-eat food from your local grocery or restaurant. Also, when you’re the chef, you control the type and source of ingredients. This means you can modify the fat, sugar or sodium content.

Cooking together can start as a rainy day activity or weekend treat. As your children become more familiar with the cooking process, you can begin to include them as your sous-chefs on a regular basis. Pretty soon, you will be taking directions from your little chefs and enjoying the benefits of their culinary skills!

Cooking Challenge: Take your child to the farmers’ market.

Let your child pick a new fruit or vegetable and prepare a dish using the new food as the star ingredient.

Emily Luxford is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutritional science. She has experience as a credentialed elementary school teacher and currently serves on the faculty at California State University, Long Beach. Beyond the classroom, she has developed and published research regarding dietary modification. Emily’s focus is individualized medical nutrition therapy. Emily sees patients at 317 West Pueblo Street in Santa Barbara and at 1225 North H Street in Lompoc.

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