Having a child who’s a picky eater can be challenging under the best of circumstances. Throw in days on end of your child being stuck in the house due to the recent school closures, and the situation can become downright daunting.
Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time at home with your kids:
Family Mealtime Fun
Sharing meals as a family provides parents with the perfect opportunity to model healthy eating behaviors.
The research on family meals is convincing: the children of families who eat meals together regularly tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Keep meals simple, and make more than one dinner’s worth at a time so you’ll have leftovers for another healthy meal in a pinch. Or prepare an ingredient that can be used in multiple ways to save time. For example, bake some extra chicken breasts that can then be repurposed for fajitas or chicken salad.
Get Kids Cooking
Bring out the mixing bowls and spatulas and get your kids involved in meal preparation:
- Three- to five-year-olds can:
- Mix together some simple ingredients
- Tear lettuce for a salad
- Snap green beans
- Six- to seven-year-olds can:
- Measure ingredients
- Peel raw fruits and vegetables with a vegetable peeler
- Shuck corn
- Crack eggs
- Eight- to nine-year-olds can:
- Check the temperature of foods using a food thermometer
- Use a can opener
- Beat eggs
- Juice citrus fruits
- Pound chicken on a cutting board
- Ten-year-olds and older can:
- Microwave foods
- Boil potatoes
- Bake foods in the oven
- Simmer ingredients on the stove
- Slice or chop vegetables
Be patient, and give your child time to become comfortable with each task. Add some fun into your meals by allowing your child to choose different themes and menus, or toss a blanket on the floor and have an impromptu indoor picnic!
Keeping Kids Safe
Of course, the basics of food safety are essential to transmit to your children and other family members in order to keep everyone healthy:
- Wash hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with disposable paper towels, clean cloth towels or air dry
- Put long hair into a ponytail
- Wipe down countertops and appliances after food preparation
- Wash dishes, cooking utensils, and cutting boards with hot, soapy water after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria
- Rinse produce under running tap water
- Avoid washing seafood, poultry, meat or eggs, since this can cause more bacteria to spread
- Instruct children not to eat raw ingredients or to lick their fingers when preparing food
Enjoy these meal times with your children – you might even discover that you have some budding junior chefs in your family!
Provided by Caryn Alter, MS, RD, FAND, Registered Dietitian at the Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center.