Healthy Eating Starts with Kids in the Kitchen

Two kids cooking at home.Cooking tasty, healthy food with your children is a great way to spend time together and for them to learn about healthy eating.

Kids love developing new skills and even fussy eaters may be tempted by dishes they’ve made themselves.

So let them have a go in the kitchen, and praise them for their efforts. They might even help with the washing-up.

Kitchen Safety

It’s essential to supervise children in the kitchen at all times.

Restrict the jobs that you give them according to their age and ability. For example, pre-schoolers might only mix dough with their hands, whereas older kids can peel and chop vegetables.

Don’t forget to tell them the hygiene and safety rules before you start. Explain why some things in a kitchen are dangerous.

Important hygiene rules include:

  • Always wash your hands before you start and after handling raw meat or fish.
  • Make sure surfaces are clean before any food goes near them. This is especially important if you have pets.
  • Clean surfaces that have had raw meat on them immediately, such as chopping boards.
  • Always check that poultry and pork are cooked all the way through. A good rule of thumb is that the meat is cooked when the juices run clear.
  • Wash all fruit and vegetables.

Important safety tips include:

  • Never run in the kitchen.
  • Mop up spills straight away.
  • Hold and use knives with great care (show children the correct way).
  • Turn pan handles into the hob, but not over a flame.
  • Always wear oven gloves when putting something in or getting something out of the oven.
  • Watch out for fat spitting from a hot frying pan or roasting tin.

No matter how much care is taken, accidents in the kitchen do happen, especially if young children are left unsupervised. Find out more about how to prevent injuries at home.

Make it Fun

Take kids shopping with you so they can choose the ingredients themselves.

Give yourself plenty of time, and have some spare ingredients in case the children make mistakes.

Choose something that will be simple and healthy. It can be fun to make something that the children can make into shapes or decorate with a smiley face.

You can get plenty of ideas from child-friendly recipe books or even kids’ cookery programmes on TV, but to get started, try this recipe for fishcakes.

Salmon Cake Smilies

Ingredients

  • 1 can (213g) of pink salmon
  • 100g wholemeal (wholewheat*) breadcrumbs
  • 3 spring (green*) onions, finely chopped
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tbsp horseradish sauce
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or dill
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 4 slices of lemon
  • 8 capers, drained
  • 2 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Method

First, help the children get all the ingredients out of the cupboards and fridge. Then everyone can help prepare them as above. So beat the egg, chop the herbs, onions and tomatoes, slice and juice the lemon, and drain the capers.

Open the can of salmon and remove any pieces of skin or bones. Let the children flake the fish into a mixing bowl.

Now add the spring (green*) onions, breadcrumbs, egg, lemon juice, horseradish sauce, herbs, oil and pepper. The kids can then combine the mixture, with their hands or a wooden spoon, until the ingredients are mixed well.

Next, separate the mixture into four equal portions and make them into a round shape. (They can be made into fun shapes, but remember that they may not cook evenly.)

  • Pre-heat the grill.
  • Brush the fishcakes with a little oil.
  • Grill the fishcakes for around five minutes on each side, until golden and sizzling. (Remember, it’s not safe for younger children to use the oven.)
  • Let the fishcakes cool a little, then allow the kids to make smiley faces on top of the fishcakes, using a lemon slice for a mouth, half a cherry tomato for a nose and capers for the eyes.
  • Serve the fishcakes with a fresh green salad, and enjoy.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

About the Author

NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.

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