Children in the kitchen improve eating habits

STILLWATER, Okla. – With summer in full swing, many parents and caregivers often hear “I’m hungry, can I have a snack?” Parents of older children who may be home alone for several hours a day worry about the types of healthy snacks their children can safely prepare themselves.

Since good nutrition starts at an early age, parents are encouraged to bring their children to the kitchen to help prepare snacks and simple meals.

“Getting kids into the kitchen early has proven to be a way to get today’s youth on the path to healthy eating,” said Jenni Klufa, assistant state program specialist for youth through Oklahoma State University Extension’s community nutrition education program. “Research shows that even picky eaters are more willing to explore different foods if they have helped purchase and prepare them.”

CNEP’s KIK It Up! now offers many healthy snack options online for young people. The recipes have easy-to-follow instructions and are intended for children ages 6-15. The recipes are divided into age groups and correspond to age-appropriate cooking skills. Most children should be able to prepare them on their own or with the help of a parent, caregiver, or older sibling. A simple recipe that is a healthy and refreshing snack in the summer and easy to prepare for children is the burrito with red, white and blue fruits.

Klufa said children as young as 3 can play a role in food preparation. Here are some appropriate chores for 3-5 year olds:

• Wash fruits and vegetables in a sink with cold tap water

• Wipe the table

• Blend ingredients into easy-to-mix pastes

• Brush cooking oil with a clean pastry brush on bread, vegetables and other foods

• Cut out cookies with fun cookie cutters

Tasks for children 6-7 years old:

• Use a vegetable peeler to peel raw potatoes, mangoes and other fruits and vegetables

• Crack the eggs into a bowl and wash your hands after handling the eggs

• Crunchy green beans

• Load the dishwasher

• Shell the corn and rinse it before cooking

• Rinse and cut parsley or green onions with clean, blunt kitchen scissors

Tasks for 8-9 year olds:

• Open cans with a can opener

• Mash the chicken on a cutting board

• Scramble the eggs

• Check meat temperature with a food thermometer

• Squeeze a lemon or an orange

Tasks for children aged 10 to 12:

• Boil the pasta

• Microwave foods

• Follow a recipe

• Cook food in the oven

• Bring the ingredients to a simmer on the stove

• Slice and chop vegetables

Pam Dennis has been a nutrition education assistant for 16 years and currently works with children in Pottawatomie County.

“Sometimes parents are reluctant to let the kids help out in the kitchen,” Dennis said. “It may be more messy, but these kids are learning skills they will use for the rest of their lives. When I work with a group of kids, they get really excited when they know we’re going to do hands-on activities. »

Dennis discovered that students attending his KIK It Up! class are more receptive to food they prepare themselves than to ready-made food they can bring.

“It’s where they take ownership of the foods they prepare and are much more willing to try new things,” she said. “We even make edible playdough they can play with first, then eat later.”

Children may have food perceptions outside the family and develop preconceived ideas about certain foods. Lori Evans, NEA in Kay County, said one way to combat this during her classes is to discuss some of kids’ favorite snacks and how they fit into USDA’s MyPlate categories.

“This program helps kids discover new foods they’ve never tried. said Evans. “We’re talking about their favorite snacks, and they think fruit chews are a good choice because it has the word fruit in it.”

Evans said kids love sharing with their family what they learn in the KIK It Up! program.

“It’s great fun to see even shy kids get involved,” she said. “They’re so excited to make their own snacks and try new combinations of different food groups.”

For more information on KIK It Up! and healthy snacks for young people, contact Klufa at 405-744-9929 or [email protected]

In addition to KIK It Up!, CNEP also offers other nutrition programs, including adult nutrition education and Farm to You, as well as a school nutrition education program.