People ask me all the time why I write this blog. After all, I don’t get paid for this and with three young kids and other freelance writing to do, time is always running out. The short answer is because I honestly want to help people eat better. And by people, I mean not only adults but kids, too. If kids learn to eat better when they’re young, they’ll be more likely to make better food choices as they get older, thereby reducing a host of health problems related to bad diets.
Other people have done studies on this, so I won’t address statistics here. But in my own life, I’ve seen my kids become great eaters. And while they certainly have their own likes and dislikes, they’re willing to eat pretty much anything on their plate, from beet greens to zucchini soup. When they do encounter something they really don’t like, such as coconut or mushrooms, I can at least count on them to take a bite without grimacing.
Some kids are destined to be picky. But many others learn how to be. This doesn’t have to be the case. When I lived in Europe, I watched kids eat foie gras and “stinky cheese,” a far cry from the chicken fingers and fries you find on kids’ menus here. Kids can be good eaters. As the grown-ups who love them, we need to do our part by exposing them to lots of different flavors and we need to get them involved in the kitchen.
Once my son, then three, attended a cooking class here in Denver. On the menu was pizza, and the kids had the opportunity to roll out the dough, mix up and slather on an herb-laden red sauce, and add toppings of their choosing. My son chose some of everything, which meant the pizza weighed about seven pounds and was loaded with mushrooms, red peppers, green peppers, pepperoni, mozzarella, parmesan and Fontina. To this day, he talks about “that yummy cheese from cooking school,” meaning Fontina.
Apparently, my son isn’t alone in his willingness to eat whatever is on his pizza, i.e., the one he made. The director and I laughed later about how common it is for children who normally protest anything but cheese to happily eat their own homemade masterpiece.
So if you have kids and are interested in this subject, click on the Kids in the Kitchen category on the right-hand side of my blog. Stories that I’ve written about involving my own kiddos will come up, and I hope they will give you ideas on how to make cooking not just a chore to be crossed off the list, but a time to have fun, eat well and be together.
Still not convinced? Remember this. Kids are scientists and the kitchen is all about science. So the next time you cook, take a moment to smell the allspice. Taste the brown sugar. Listen to the sizzling onions. Teach them how things taste, and talk to them about why you added a pinch more lemon or a little more olive oil. Let them watch as you take heavy cream and turn it into whipped cream. Whether you have 20 minutes or two hours, get them involved. Who knows? Maybe next time they sit down to eat, they’ll do more with those carrots or kohlrabi than just shove them to the side of their plate.