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    Want Your Kids to Eat Healthier? Have Them Help Prepare Meals!

    By Kristen Houghton     

    Morbid childhood obesity is an ever increasing problem. It has even caused the government to get involved. Public schools which receive federal funding must adhere to a mandated change in any food sold in school buildings. The amount of carbs, fats, and sugars in all cafeteria food must meet detailed guidelines. Fast food restaurants in many states are required to list the ingredients in their meals.

    Everyone is worried about childhood obesity. And they should be. We all should be. But how can we get our children to become more interested in healthy foods?

    The best way for children to learn good eating habits is by showing them and the best way to show them is to have them help you prepare meals. The idea is to get school-age children to participate in meal preparation, but even a child as young as three can help in some small manner.

    Begin your “cooking school” with a few basics. Presentation is a good start.

    Introduce your children to fruits as a “sweet.” They’re not only good snack food but also can be used as an alternative to a sugar-laden dessert. Have your children lay orange sections and green or dark red grapes on a dessert plate. Add a small piece of dark chocolate in the center to make it fancier. The natural sweetness of the fruit is an excellent ending to a dinner or lunch. The added fiber and nutrients are an added bonus, and the dark chocolate has antioxidants. Their taste buds will soon crave the fruit and find sugar-y foods too sweet.

    Show your children the true size of what a real portion or serving should be; then have them plan a lunch or dinner around portion-controlled plates. A nutritionist once explained to me that we should eat a portion of meat or fish that is no larger than the size of our fists. This rule of thumb works for all age groups. Food for thought-a giant burger is hardly the same size as the fist of a six year old child!

    Think Crayola crayons when thinking about foods for your children. Kids like color, so bring lots of this to a meal. For a good salad, have the littlest ones rip up lettuce leaves while an older child breaks up carrots and red and green peppers into pieces for the salad bowl. Add cherry tomatoes, some low fat cheese pieces, and a vinegrette. Add more olive oil than vinegar, please! The bitter taste of vinegar may be off-setting to a child.

    When planning a healthy meal with your children, be creative. Introduce raw foods such as apple pieces, sliced zucchini, and cauliflower, with a light dusting of grated cheese, as appetizers. Let children pile their plates high with them.

    As for what to drink, go natural again. Fruit juices and seltzer make a fun, fancy drink and are healthier than soda or “fruit” drinks that are high in calories.

    Remember to make meal preparation fun. It should be a time you all enjoy together.

    Due to time constraints, it may be difficult to do meal prep together on a daily basis. But even having your children help you once or twice a week will let them appreciate a healthier way of eating. You’re giving your children “cooking lessons” that will help them all through their lives.

    Bon appetite!

    Written by Kristen HoughtonRate this article:

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