My family loves dessert. As soon as my five-year-old finishes his dinner he immediately always asks, “can I have dessert now?!” In our home, we adhere to a pretty healthy lifestyle which mainly includes a vegan and vegetarian diet, with occasional seafood. As much as possible, even while making dessert, I like to make dishes that are healthy by including whole food ingredients and unrefined sugars. I try to think of it as an extension of the main meal with regards to nutrition.
Children need to understand that the basis of their health basically comes down to what foods they are consuming. According to a 2019 Rudd Report, “greater exposure to unhealthy food marketing by Hispanic and Black children and teens, both in the media and in their communities, likely contributes to diet-related health disparities affecting communities of color, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.” As a result, we must be diligent about monitoring what our children watch and how they are consciously being affected by television. We, as parents, should deliberately select programming that contributes to their health consciousness rather than hypnotizing them into believing they need junk food. There is an amazing new Netflix TV show that teaches kids about food and where they come from called Waffles and Mochi, featuring and produced by Michelle Obama. It makes learning about food an adventure in which they discover the origins of certain ingredients with a diverse and fun cast.
I have found that one of the best ways to get my kids excited about eating delicious, healthy meals is to get them involved in the kitchen. By having them contribute to meal prep, they have more of an understanding of how their food is made. It is also a great opportunity to talk to them about where certain ingredients come from (i.e., factories vs farms), as well as, incorporating math by teaching them about measurements with various kitchen tools. Of course, this requires patience and the understanding that there will be spills and a mess to clean up afterward depending on the age of your children and their motor skills.
My kids in the kitchen
Here are a few items that get kids excited to help make their meals:
A Spiralizer. My kids love making noodles out of zucchinis and sweet potato curly fries with this device. They get a kick out of turning the crank and seeing the noodles emerge from the whole vegetable. Then, they devour this easy, healthy recipe!
Popsicle Molds. Great for summer, these molds allow you to get creative with ingredients you may already have in your kitchen. I love this book, Glow Pops, which has an amazing variety of recipes that explain how each ingredient provides nutritious benefits. There are even savory ones that can be used for snacks and show that popsicles do not necessarily need to be sweet to be delicious. Molds are also good for the environment by minimizing plastic waste from store-bought, individually wrapped ice cream treats.
A Food Processor. This is my absolute favorite kitchen tool. I have discovered so many amazing ways to make nutritious desserts with it. Everything from avocado chocolate mousse, to protein snack balls and brownies made with dates. My kids love putting the ingredients in it and taking turns pressing the button to watch everything blend together.
By teaching children to seek out and eat healthy snacks and foods you are setting them up for a consciously healthy lifestyle as adults. If you have the resources, you have the power to help break the cycle of health disparities that have plagued our communities. Check out the American Heart Association for a few more suggestions and to help establish a routine with the whole family!