Kids’ nutrition starts early

Published 4:57 pm Tuesday, August 20, 2019

It’s Friday

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

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School’s in!  And so are the first day of school pictures. Seems I always posed our twins in front of whatever car I was driving at the time. So now I have a record of not only the boys, but our vehicles too!

In the first grade they were dressed exactly alike in red shorts wearing lace-up tennis shoes, with their shirts tightly tucked, waving as they stood beside my maroon Buick station wagon in 1987.

Cars, clothes, and haircuts have changed, but not a child’s nutritional needs. Children in 2019 still need a combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fat for growing, learning, playing, and excelling every day!

And to interest them in good nutritional habits they need to develop basic kitchen skills!  So, help your kids start young and master simple cooking tasks before moving on to more complex skills. Use these age-appropriate ideas, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to keep your kids excited, safe and well-educated in the kitchen!.

3 -5 year old children love to help in the kitchen, but require close supervision.  Teach them to:  • Use cookie cutters • Rinse produce in a large, bowl filled with water • Clear the table • Mix simple ingredients. • Use a pastry brush to oil bread, vegetables and other foods • Use a plastic knife to cut soft fruit or vegetables on a cutting board • Use pieces of fruit to make funny fruit faces.

6- 7 year olds can start to handle more complex kitchen tasks as their fine motor skills further develop.  They can learn to:  • Crack eggs into a bowl • Use a vegetable peeler • De-seed peppers and tomatoes • Shuck and rinse corn • Use blunt scissors to cut green onions, parsley and other herbs • Stir and prepare instant pudding • Prepare lettuce for a salad.

8-9 year old kids’ skills and abilities vary so tailor cooking tasks to each child’s maturity level.  With your supervision they can:  • Rinse and clean vegetables • Use a can opener • Beat eggs • Measure and mix dry ingredients • Use a food thermometer • Juice citrus fruits • Pound chicken on a cutting board • Set the table • Wash dishes.

Help 10-12 year old preteens feel independent in the kitchen by providing them with more responsibilities. Under an adult’s watchful eye, they can learn to:  • Plan a menu • Boil pasta and vegetables • Simmer ingredients on the stovetop • Follow a simple step-by-step recipe • Slice and chop vegetables • Bake and microwave foods • Clean up after themselves (a very important kitchen task).

And don’t forget teaching them about food safety.  Children can learn these basics:  Clean all countertops and kitchen surfaces before cooking •  Pull back long hair • Wash hands in warm, soapy water before and after handling food (HELPFUL TIP: To ensure all germs are killed, wash hands for at least 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.)  • Don’t cross-contaminate.

When kids help out in the kitchen, they not only have fun and learn cooking skills but also food safety basics and proper nutrition. Plus, they can further develop math, reading, science and fine motor skills — all while spending time together as a family.  See…it’s worth the effort for more reasons than one.

Kids Eat Right:

Home Food Safety:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Recipe of the Week

Rising Star Soup

Any age child can help out in preparing this kid-friendly soup for supper!

1½ cups tomato juice

2 cups low-sodium broth (vegetable or chicken)

½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 large garlic cloves, finely minced

2 cups frozen vegetable blend (carrots, peas, green beans)

6 ounces stellini (star-shaped pasta)

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring tomato juice, broth, Italian seasonings and garlic clove to a boil.  Add in the frozen vegetables and pasta. Reduce heat to medium; simmer for 15 minutes until pasta is cooked and soup has thickened slightly. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and serve.  Makes 4 1½ cup servings.