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Building healthy food foundations is as much about eating the right food as it is about enjoying the experience of planning, sourcing, preparing, and cooking ingredients.
“Cooking and eating together as a family is a big part of our life. I find it so rewarding as a mum seeing my kids have such fun and a passion for being in the kitchen. It really does set them up to have a great relationship with food, I believe that instilling healthy and happy food habits early on goes a long way towards building a great food foundation for life,” says cookbook author and mum-of-two, Magdalena Roze.
Here, the Byron Bay-based journalist shares her top five tips to getting kids involved in the kitchen making meals to remember.
1. Have the kids in the kitchen from a young age
I’ve pretty much always had the children in the kitchen with me, since they were in bouncers, and involved them in the preparation as soon as they could stand on a stool to reach the bench.
While involving the kids can often lead to a lot of mess and chaos, ultimately, I’ve found that it’s extremely worthwhile for the connection and positive relationship that the experience creates with food.
Mum-of-two Magdalena says she has had her boys in the kitchen with her from a young age.
2. Take the kids to the weekly grocery shop
When children are involved in sourcing the food (whether it’s picking herbs, or shopping at the farmer’s market or grocery store) and making it, they feel a sense of pride and achievement – and importantly, they are much more likely to eat it. It’s a wonderful sensory experience too.
The colours, textures, smells and sounds (like cracking eggs) of cooking are arguably just as important as tasting the flavours. And the magic of seeing simple ingredients like flour, eggs and water turn into a delicious meal never gets old! Cooking is one of those activities that also serves a purpose; after all, we need to eat.
But what I love about cooking, especially when doing it with children, is that they learn so much through “experience” which will always be more powerful than “telling” them something.
3. Cook the food together
Some of our fondest memories have been made cooking together in the kitchen – whether it’s choc chip cookies (and the kids eating the dough straight off the wooden spoon), making fresh pasta or chopping veggies. The experience of then eating our meal together is so much more enjoyable.
One of the great things about making certain meals or foods from scratch is that children will see how much effort it can take! One time the children wanted ice-cream but when they realised it would take us two hours to make, they decided to have an apple instead!
Having said that, I like to treat all foods equally, in that it’s not good or bad, it’s all real food there to be enjoyed in the right context. So there’s nothing wrong with ice cream on a sunny day or at a party (especially when it’s homemade), it’s just not an everyday food.
“I like to treat all foods equally, in that it’s not good or bad.”
4. Cook with everyone in mind
Create a meal that everyone will eat, rather than separate meals for kids, toddlers and babies. Children know what they like and they like what they know, so if they see the rest of the family eating the same food as them and if they are exposed to it enough times, they are more likely to eat it too.
No need to make different renditions of meals as this can become messy and time consuming. By making the one meal you have that time back with your family for some couch time after dinner!
5. Keep it simple!
Finally, keeping it simple is key! On a busy or challenging day, there’s no need to create a three-course meal. Eggs on toast or frittata save me every time!
Find out more at Australian Eggs.