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Dietitians Dish: Holidays good time to introduce kids to cooking

By By Elizabeth Sommerfeld
Nov. 19, 2013 at 5:19 a.m.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

The holidays are a time to spend with family. So why not start in the kitchen with your children or grandchildren? Teaching kids that cooking can be fun and healthy is a great tradition to start at an early age. Kids will enjoy creating foods and watching family members enjoy them.

Make sure to start off healthy habits by teaching them to wash their hands before doing any food preparation. Washing hands with soap and singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice should be sufficient to kill any bacteria lingering on their hands. And remember, many of us grew up licking the beaters or the bowl but stress the importance of not doing this to decrease the chance of food poisoning.

Cooking can be a great educational lesson, too. Reading a recipe, gathering the right ingredients, following directions and measuring all can be wonderful teaching tools. Help your child walk through the steps in recipe preparation.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following activities based on the child's age. Keep in mind that young children are most likely not safe to do the actual cooking themselves as the hot stove/items are at face level.

Five- and 6-year-olds

Stir instant pudding, snap green beans, prepare lettuce for a salad, press cookie cutters, pour liquids into batter

Seven- and 8-year-olds

Rinse vegetables, shuck corn, mix and shake ingredients, beat eggs, measure dry ingredients

Nine and 10-year-olds

Knead bread dough, stir hot mixtures, blend batters, broil foods in toaster oven, cut foods with a table knife

Children age 10 and older

Slice or chop vegetables, boil potatoes, microwave foods, bake foods in the oven, simmer ingredients on the stove.

Remember to start your child with the basics and allow them to do more as they are able and safe to perform. Also, don't forget to explain what you are doing and why. This helps the child understand the process and learn for the future.

For more tips and recipes, visit kidseatright.org and enjoy the holiday season.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld, MS, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and bariatric coordinator at DeTar Healthcare System. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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