Seems like cooking shows featuring kids are the hottest things on TV. From Master Chef Junior to Kids’ Baking Championship. I admit, I’m addicted to them myself.
The upside is that they’re highlighting how much fun it can be getting kids in the kitchen and involved in cooking.
The downside, other than making most grownups look incompetent, are the subtle messages sent about the most exciting foods to prepare and the tastiest foods to eat. According to the judges on these shows, the more sugar, fat, and salt the better!!!
I’ve lost count of the number of times judges tell these kids, “It’s good, but needs more salt.” That makes me cringe. Americans need less – not more salt in our foods. That also goes for sugar and fats.
The just released federal dietary guidelines call on all Americans to cut sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. Most of us consume far more — about 3,440 milligrams daily on average — much of it in the form of foods like pizzas, soups, breads and cured meats.
As for sugar, Americans are the largest consumers in the world. The average American has about as much sugar as the average Indian, Chinese, Russian, Turk, and Brazilian combined.
On average, Americans eat 22 teaspoons a day. To meet the new 10 percent target, they’d need to cut their sugar intake by nearly half — to no more than 12 teaspoons a day on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
For me, when it comes to kids and cooking, it isn’t about teaching them to create the most extraordinary show-stopping dishes, but teaching them to prepare everyday ordinary meals that are delicious and good for the family too.
Mardi Michels who runs cooking classes for kids has some terrific advice:
- Make the time
The single most common reason people give for not cooking with their kids is that there’s no time. But just because you don’t have the time to cook with your kids every night, isn’t a reason to never cook with them at all. Set aside a couple of hours on a weekend to prepare a meal with your kids. Start slow – but start.
Find the right recipes
Too often, people think they need a special cookbook for cooking with kids. Not true. Look for ones that teach basic cooking skills and include recipes for “affordable family meals from scratch at home. Look for a regular cookbook with well written, easy-to-follow recipes, pictures, and enough tasks to keep little minds and hands busy. If you’re working with more capable kids or feel confident, look for recipes that challenge them and develop more advanced skills and techniques.
· Don’t get hung up on having the right equipment
No need to buy special equipment for your kids. Stick with the standards you probably already have: an assortment of pots, pans and trays, a colander, cookies sheets, a box grater, measuring cups and spoons, a vegetable peeler, wooden spoons, and spatulas.
- Don’t worry if your children are picky eaters
Encourage your kids to be food “explorers” on a search for new foods to sample. Everyone may be surprised just how much of an adventure cooking and eating different things can be. Look for recipes, ingredients, and spices from other cultures and countries. Ask that everyone, mom and dad included, try at least one bite. Sure there will be misses, but there’s bound to be some real winners too.
- Be patient
The more you cook with kids, the more skilled and faster they’ll become. As hard as it may be, resist the urge to take over and do it for them. If you do, they’ll never learn – which really is the point. Just factor in extra time and soon you’ll find the more you cook with your kids, the less time you’ll need.
Healthy cooking doesn’t start in the kitchen.
It’s important to involve your kids from beginning to end!
Ask them to help research recipes, check the pantry and frid, write up the shopping list, and join you on the trips to the market.
The most valuable cooking lessons we can teach our children are all about making healthy food choices that will last a lifetime.
That way when the next set of government dietary guidelines comes out, they’re way ahead of the game.
And who knows? Maybe one day soon there may even be a healthy kids cooking show on the Food Network or Cooking Channel. Until then, improvise. Create your won family version of Chopped or Master Chef Junior. Just remember, cut down on fats, sugar, and please – less salt!