With the arrival of summer, many Canadians are embracing fresh, seasonal, local foods, but for families with picky eaters, it can be difficult to break away from routine shops. I've talked to a lot of families who find themselves stuck in these doldrums and are craving a change, but struggle to introduce new foods into their repertoire. My advice: get your children involved in the meal planning and preparation.
It's important for children to understand where food comes from, develop food preparation skills and learn about what's in season. Not only will it be beneficial in the future when they are adults and cooking for themselves, but it's also a great way to help them appreciate the time and effort that goes into making dinner each night.
Here are some tips and tricks I share with my clients to support them in getting the whole family involved in planning, creating, and cooking healthy meals.
1. Talk before you shop
Before heading out to the grocery store to pick up this week's must-haves, take some time to discuss healthy meal options with your kids. Use Canada's Food Guide as a tool to discuss what types of foods they should be eating and use your local flyers to choose items that are featured or on sale.
2. Kid-approved recipes
Have your kids look at cookbooks or browse recipes online to help pick out new dishes to try at home. You may need to provide some guidance to make sure your meal includes food items from all four food groups.
3. Navigate the grocery isles
As you wander the grocery aisles, use this time as a learning experience to introduce new ingredients to your kids. Let them select the vegetables for dinner one night or different fruits to have as a snack.
4. Meet with the experts
Set up a consultation with a registered dietitian. They can offer advice and tips to make sure your family is getting the nutrients they need and are eating the right types of ingredients for their lifestyle and activity level. At Loblaws and Zehrs stores, we offer free consultations with registered dietitians. It's a one-stop shop to get all of your health and grocery needs.
5. Make your kitchen an interactive classroom
The kitchen is a constant learning experience. Being involved in meal preparation teaches your kids about literacy, science and math. Assign your kids tasks in the kitchen based on skill level. For example, have them help with washing fruits or vegetables, reading the recipe, grating cheese, mixing ingredients together in a bowl or measuring ingredients. You can even have them help with the clean-up.
6. Take it outside
Pique their interest by growing herbs and vegetables with your kids. Try a selection of different lettuces or tomatoes or, if you are limited for space, a strawberry hanging basket. Your kids can watch as they grow and ripen and help with harvesting the fruits and vegetables when they are ready.
7. Practice what you preach
The goal as parents is to help our kids establish positive eating habits and attitudes. To make sure our kids are eating healthy food options, we have to set a good food example and feed ourselves well to feed our kids well.
Try out some of these tips and get your kids involved with helping to pick out and cook a family meal. It may take a bit of extra patience, but it will be a great opportunity to introduce some new ingredients.
Nema McGlynn is a registered dietitian with Loblaws. She is part of a network of more than 76 dietitians who provide free services like one-on-one consultations, assisted shopping, school tours and recipe ideas at locations across the country.
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