Getting your kids involved in the kitchen can encourage trying new foods as well as helping to reduce food waste, and now it is more important than ever to look at how to make use of every last morsel of food.
Looking at how much we waste and wasting less is part of this, but also honing our kitchen skills also helps to ensure we know how to be more versatile in our cooking. And for those of us with children, we have the added challenge of making food that they will eat. Times are hard, and we’re stressed and our tiny dictator’s food demands can’t always be met. So what to do? Get them involved in the kitchen!
If you think engaging your kids in the household food preparation will help you to waste less and to try more, here are a few of my top tips for engaging your kids in the kitchen, which from my experience and a food educator, cookery teacher (and a mum of 2) helps them to be more adventurous with trying different foods, more likely to eat what’s on their plate and more importantly, less likely to waste it!
- Grow what you can (even veg scraps)—You don’t need a garden, but if you do have one, that’s a bonus. Things like herbs can be grown indoors or outdoors. Other easy growing projects include sprouting cress or seeds indoors or re-growing veg scraps—spring onions, celery stalks and lettuce works a treat. If you do have a garden and green fingers, there are a wealth of possibilities. Even you don’t some kill proof veg are tomatoes, courgettes, lettuce and kale. Watching their food grow gives them a better understanding of how food gets to their plate.
- Come up with meal ideas/plans together—Depending on their age you may need to offer some suggestions, but this helps to get them involved and take ownership of what comes to the table. Enjoying this food together also helps to reinforce the notion of eating as a social activity and now just shovelling it down you can leave the table. You’ll have some good chats and make some good memories over those family meals.
- Teach them about food waste and the impact on the planet (and your finances)—When you think about the fact 1/3 of all food produced globally gets wasted, that is equivalent to buying 10 bags of shopping and dropping 3 bags in the bin before you even leave the shop. They will start to get it. Research also suggest that the average family of 4 wastes £50-60 of food a month, use this to entice them to waste less and think about putting that money towards a family day out or a family treat.
- Make cooking and trying new foods fun—If your kids prefer a challenge or experiment, make kitchen time and eating less about the food and more about the challenge/experiment. You can try using a single ingredient in lots of different ways, like seeing how many different ways you can use oats or use a rainbow food chart to tick off and/or challenge you/your kids to eat a more varied diet.
- Teach them how and what foods support their nutritional and performance needs—This may take a bit of swotting up on your part, but I find kids love knowing how their bodies work and what’s in their food. And if they need more convincing, tie this to their particular interest, like dance, sport, maths, etc. If you want them to consider beetroot, tell him how it supports their blood and oxygen support, which means they can run faster, jump higher and for longer. Or if they are more of the cerebral type, share with them info on the brain boosting benefits of berries or walnuts (and a shelled walnut half looks like a brain).
- Choose the right recipes (interest and level of difficulty)—Let’s face it, cooking with kids can be STRESSFUL. Especially when like me, you’re a bit of a perfectionist (and a touch critique) in the kitchen. But you can make things much easier by choosing the right recipes to cook with them or engaging them in with particular tasks. Choose quick or easy recipes or give them specific, age-appropriate tasks like mashing, bashing, grating, crumbing or rolling (to name a few). My kids love grating anything and can often be found snaffling whilst grating, even raw courgette which my eldest contends he hates.
And remember it’s never going to be a linear process. Children are people (very opinionated ones without much of a filter), so you’ve got to ride the waves, but definitely, getting them involved in getting the food to their plate helps to improve what and how much they eat.