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Whether you’re an avid home chef who adores discovering new recipes or a reluctant cook who only dons a cooking apron under duress, teaching your kids to cook is an essential skill that will benefit them for life.
When kids move out of home and fend for themselves, the skills we send them off with will affect their wellbeing as they navigate the world. Eating out all of time can provide excess calories, too much sodium and a blow to the hip pocket.
Both nutritionally, and comfort wise, everyone will agree nothing beats a home-cooked meal (except maybe a super fancy restaurant on your birthday) and accredited practicing dietitian, Georgie Rist, believes that starting earlier is the key.
“Food is an essential need of life, and being able to cook is an important life skill, that is learnt (or not) early in life. Setting good examples, both mum and dad, and involving children in meal preparation from an early age, is the best way to set your children up with skills that they will forever be grateful for,” says Georgie.
“Being able to cook and prepare healthy meals for yourself, your loved ones, is just as important as knowing how to brush your teeth. We brush our teeth twice a day and we are taught how to do this early in life.”
Although kids underfoot in the kitchen can be time-consuming and annoying, with time and patience you can train up a soux chef to help you out and actually make your life easier- See it as a long term investment.
“I started teaching my eldest at the age of six,” say mum of two, Jody Toomey. “He wanted to help in the kitchen so I thought I might as well teach him properly seeing as I used to chef. I started with basic techniques and safe handling of knives by getting him to chop potatoes. He's now very good at it.
“Personally, I feel if you're leaving it until they're a teenager, you're leaving it far too late.”
Food and wellness blogger, Brenda Janschek, found that spending time in the kitchen improved her relationship with her son as they had a mutual love of food and cooking.
”For us, it’s a place where we can talk about life’s problems and stresses and fritter them away into the ether, to replace them with a sense of peace, joy and fun,” she says. “Everything just feels alright when we are in there together.”
Everybody needs to eat, and the benefits of eating balanced nutritious meals go beyond helping to maintain a healthy weight and boosting moods and energy levels. Imparting knowledge of nutrition is setting up good habits for life.
“Food and nutrition has been an important part of my life since before he was born. I suppose it’s only natural that some of this will rub off on him, and he has certainly grown up to embrace my love of good food,” tells Brenda.
“My son is bustling and sporty and needs as much nourishment as he can get. It’s critical for his development. This is why we decided to write a recipe book together. Real Food For Hungry Teens is one of the most important things I’ve created in my work because my son and I created it together and he used the knowledge I gave him.”
There are many other benefits to teaching teens how to cook healthy meals, the least of which is one night a week they can practice on the family while you kick back and drink wine.
Other perks also include saving money which is valuable for home-leavers, supporting brain function and boosting memory which is fabulous for students, and also it’s very impressive on a first date.
Cooking and eating is also a brilliant way to connect with family and friends which is known to help alleviate feelings of social isolation.
Here are some simple and versatile staples that every teen should master –
Essential cooking skills – Stir fry
Stir fries – the most versatile dish that can almost get you through the week by swapping the vegetables, protein and carbohydrates (e.g. fish, tofu, chicken or lamb, with brown rice, basmati rice, quinoa, rice noodles or sweet potato mash with as many colourful vegetables)
Basic green salad that can accompany any meal, including dark green leaves, tomatoes, snow peas, cucumber and capsicum. The more colour, the better!
Any meals that your parents or grandparents taught you, keep the tradition alive!