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The Benefits of Cooking With Children

There’s almost no better way to connect with friends and family than over food. If we think about most “feel-good” foods they’re usually packed with sugar and carbs that make them  unhealthy. Both children and adults usually flock towards these, less healthy options, because of comfort, ease and taste. It is important to take care of our bodies by first examining what we are putting into them, through our food. Making the choice to lean towards healthier meals can be a little nerve wracking when considering all members of the family that will also be making the change because of you.

I’m sure many of us know or are picky eaters and when you think of them it’s more than likely that a child is on the top of that list. I believe one should face the challenge of a child that’s skeptical of new, more nutritious foods, by creating an environment where the child can aid in the overall cooking process. In this blog post I’m going to dive into some benefits of incorporating children into your meal planning, preparing and cooking, as well as, provide a few yummy and healthy recipes. I will also provide you with information on where to find some local farmers markets in the Bay Area where you’ll be able to purchase all natural ingredients and support your local farmers!

Cooking with family can be a wonderful, memory making experience. I’m sure most of us can think back to a time in our childhood when you waited patiently in the kitchen. Your mind, filled with curiosity as your eyes followed the chef’s (usually a parent, older family member or grandparent) every movement. The sounds of slicing, sizzling, and dicing filled the room and quickly after came the delicious aromas, out of the oven, or from the stove top. These experiences can be very beneficial to children because they’re filled with so much more than just cooking. Sharing the art and love of cooking with others can help build stronger bonds, especially when children are included. A sense of both trust and responsibility accompanies children once they’re able to aid in such a big decision and process for the family, such as making a meal. Furthermore, according to a survey quoted by The Washington Post, children “…who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them.”

Along with the emotional benefits, children gain from the experience in many other ways. Cooking requires an open mind, palate, and much focus. Every step in a cooking process is crucial. This is why children can gain focus and learn to become more detail oriented. These are two qualities that will help in various aspects of life. If a family meal means that everyone takes part in the food making process, everyone will learn to appreciate the time, thought and effort that goes into every meal, even more than they already did. A sense of pride can be felt when you create a new concoction in the kitchen, and children will feel the same when they’re partaking in the process. The last benefit I will list is equally as important as the others and it is, basic math and language skills. Cooking is full of numbers on measurements and words on recipes.The article, “Cooking with Preschoolers,” explains how basic math skills are used through the measurements and counting ingredients. Meanwhile, the article also states that, “when you read a recipe together, you’re introducing new words to your child’s vocabulary and promoting literacy”.

Now it’s time for some possible meal ideas to try with the whole family! I will feature four different recipes, one for: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each meal will contain ingredients that are packed with all the nutrients and vitamins that your family needs to grow stronger and healthier, without having to sacrifice good taste.

  • Breakfast: the “You-Call-It-Egg-Scramble”

This recipe is as quick and easy as it sounds. Everyone gets to create their own egg scrambles with their favorite ingredients. The ingredients needed for this will be: eggs (about 1-2 per scramble depending on the appetite), and the rest is up to you! Whatever you have in your fridge can work for this breakfast. For example, fresh vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc., or low fat shredded cheese, fresh salsa, ham, soyrizo, pepper, salt, cayenne, and so on.

First, you’ll want to make sure all your ingredients are prepared by chopping and separating them into different bowls. Then with an olive oiled or buttered skillet on medium heat, allow everyone to come up one at a time and create their signature scramble. They can list their ingredients so they can be placed. Once cooked through, add the scrambled egg to the mixture.

  • Lunch: Family Style Taco Bar

Much like the recipe above, a Family Style Taco Bar means you can choose whatever ingredients you’d like for people to pick through. From corn to flour tortillas, sauteed vegetables, ground beef or chicken, fresh salsa, shredded cheese, and so on. The possibilities are endless with this family lunch idea that is bound to be a hit. Everyone can aid in the prepping process, and of course in creating their very own personalized tacos.

For the full recipe click the link below:

https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/taco-bar#spicy-ground-beef

  • Dinner: Spaghetti Squash with Ground Turkey and Marinara

This recipe is a great alternative to carb filled pasta. As for your ingredients you’ll need: 1-2 spaghetti squashes (depending on the size of your family), 1 lbs of ground turkey, ½ cup of breadcrumbs, ¼ cup of milk, olive oil, spices/seasoning (salt, pepper, oregano, garlic), and you can chose to use your favorite bottled marinara sauce or make your own!

The first step will be to preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cut the spaghetti squash in half. Drizzle the insides with olive oil, salt and pepper, then bake for about an hour. Once cooled you’ll spoon out the “spaghetti” into a bowl and set it aside. Next, in a clean bowl you’ll mix the ground turkey with the breadcrumbs, garlic, spices, and milk. Form these into small balls and place them in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until thoroughly browned on all sides. Finally, add the meatballs to your spaghetti squash and finish with your sauce on top.

Click the link for the full recipe:

https://www.marthastewart.com/355561/spaghetti-squash-turkey-meatballs

A meal is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. This is why before going on your next trip to the grocery store, you may want to opt for a local farmers market instead! Farmers markets can be beneficial to both your family and your local economy. Many food stands that belong to farmers markets are usually owned and maintained locally. The farmers take pride in their products and have a greater sense of connection to the communities around them. Most times you’re able to directly speak to someone who knows the ins and outs of their process and can ask any questions you may have about their products. The items found in a local market can often be fresher since they’re traveling a shorter distance to get to you. This is why I recommend making a stop at one the next time you need some groceries for a healthy meal.

You can find a list of the different farmers markets in the Bay Area using the link below. Each market featured has its own website that you can access to gain further information such as, exact locations and time of operation. Many of the markets actually have an option to sign up for their email newsletters that detail upcoming events, “crop watches” to find out what foods you can expect at the weekly markets, and even more recipes to try out!

http://www.cafarmersmkts.com/find-your-farmers-market/

Overall, cooking with children can be a great experience for everyone involved and making the transition to healthier meals can be done! As you read, there are plenty of benefits that come along with incorporating your family into cooking as well. Have you witnessed any of the benefits of cooking with children before? Do you have any favorite farmers markets in the Bay Area? If you try out any of the recipes let us know how they worked out for you! Do you have any suggestions for other healthy meals that incorporate the whole family in the cooking process? If so, be sure to share them with the Bay Area Sitters Family by posting your comment below!

Resources:

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cooking-preschool.html

http://www.cafarmersmkts.com/find-your-farmers-market/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/01/12/the-most-important-thing-you-can-do-with-your-kids-eat-dinner-with-them/?utm_term=.1cf396ef018e

About Jazmin Vazquez

Jazmin Vazquez is a San Diego native, currently residing in New York. She is a Sociology graduate from the University of California, San Diego. She currently works in the educational nonprofit industry with middle school age children. In her spare time she enjoys pursuing her passions for writing, social media and marketing.