Over the last year as we all spent more time at home, many families started to cook more. For some this was fun and enjoyable and for others it was a burden. Some families did more baking and some did more scratch cooking, and others just ate more simple convenience foods that could be bought at the store and made quickly at home.
Now that more restaurants are open and family schedules and routines are shifting, many are wondering what their new family “normal” will be. Will families who had started to cook more continue to do so? Or will they take advantage of being able to eat out more? We believe that “eating together as a family” at home post pandemic is an important ritual and way to build healthy family habits around food.
We do encourage families to get kids involved in the kitchen, but this practice should ideally make family life easier and not more difficult. Getting involved can teach kids good eating habits and self-regulation while also fighting disordered eating habits, anxiety, and even depression, particularly important right now.
In Sugarproof, we give ideas for specific tasks that kids of various ages can help with in a way that actually lightens the work load of the adults in the house rather than creating additional mess.
Here are a few examples by age:
- Toddlers can help wash fruits and vegetables, spin salad dry, and pick things like herbs or cherry tomatoes off of stems.
- Preschool aged children can cut soft things like melon or peppers, shell peas, husk corn, snap asparagus, help measure and mix recipes for baked goods, arrange fruits and vegetables onto plates/platters, and set the table.
- Elementary school children can peel carrots, cut/prep a wider variety of raw vegetables or fruits, crack eggs, and learn to operate appliances like a food processor or blender (supervised).
- Older children can find recipes in cookbooks or online and start preparing simple things for the family with some/little assistance.
Involving kids in meal planning, shopping, gardening (where possible), and simple food prep increases their level of connectedness and enthusiasm for eating family meals. And ultimately this can make meal-times much easier for parents and less of a struggle. Kids who feel proud of helping make family meals are more likely to eat them enthusiastically and less likely to complain or refuse healthy foods.
And for when families do choose to buy convenience options or eat at restaurants, we have suggestions in Sugarproof for how to navigate food labels and menus to make smart choices that are lower in sugar and more nutrient-rich overall.
About the Authors
Dr. Michael Goran, Ph.D. and Dr. Emily Ventura, Ph.D. are co-authors of pioneering new book, SUGARPROOF: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk and What You Can Do (Avery/Penguin Random House).
Dr. Michael Goran, Ph.D. is a professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Scientific Advisor for popular brand, Yumi Baby Food. Dr. Emily Ventura is an expert in nutrition education and recipe development.
Sugarproof busts myths about the various types of sugars and sweeteners, helps families identify sneaky sources of sugar in their diets, and suggests realistic, family-based solutions to reduce sugar consumption and protect kids. To purchase the book or for more information, visit www.sugarproofkids.com