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Life Skills to Keep Your Kids Healthy Long-Term

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kids-in-the-kitchenAs a parent, it’s important to me to raise respectful kids. In fact, I have a long list of values that I want to pass on to them such as respect for others, manners, work ethic, how to study, how to share and how to express their feelings.

When the kids move out, I want them to go into the world prepared and able to care for themselves. I want them to grow and mature through their adult years as happy healthy individuals. For them to do this, they need the life skill of cooking.

Say what? You heard me. If the kids move out and haven’t mastered the basics of the kitchen, they will have few options other than eating boxed meals, restaurant meals or fast-food meals….all of which will quickly take them from what I’m assuming will be an optimal state of health to lesser state.

I don’t want that to happen, so it’s kitchen duties 101 in my house. Of course, the kids don’t know I’m preparing them to thrive in the outside world. They think they’re helping with getting the meal onto the table. And they are, but they are learning so much more in the process.

Tips to get your kids involved in the kitchen.

  1. Talk to them about the weekly meal plan. Kids know what they like to eat and they love to make dinner recommendations. Of course, if they’re requesting meat and potatoes or chicken nuggets, this is a great opportunity to talk to them about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Ideally, you’re striving for a plate of ½ vegetables (one green and one color), ¼ protein (meat, chicken, beans) and ¼ carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, rice, pasta). Remember, the smaller your plate, the easier it is to control portion size.
  2. Build a grocery list. With the menu in hand, you can plan the groceries. While you sit at the table, you can ask the kids to check the cupboards and fridge for the items you need. This gets them used to preparing a grocery list and makes them aware of the various foods that make up their meals.
  3. Shop with them. When you shop off of a list, you are teaching the kids to stick to the plan. You can use the opportunity to show them how less healthy foods are strategically placed at eye level. You’ll want to have them look up and down to find the healthier selections.
  4. Have them wash and chop. Foods should always be washed before starting food preparation. Washing the fruits and vegetables help the kids to understand which foods can be eaten in their natural state and which need to be peeled. For example, beets will need peeling, but carrots require only a good washing.
  5. Set the table. Setting the table is like ringing Pavlov’s bell. The process of putting the condiments, water glasses and cutlery out helps to establish the habit of eating at the table, not in front of the TV. It also carves out a safe family eating environment.
  6. Clear the table. Many hands makes light work.
  7. Pack away leftovers. When we pack away the leftovers for repurposing or for lunch, this helps kids learn the “cook once, eat twice” strategy that saves time and money. That’s a good habit to learn.
  8. Do the dishes. This skill will enable them to get a job as dishwasher or busser in a restaurant – we may not want to eat there, but it’s a great first job.

When you use these simple tips, you’ll create valuable together time and model healthy lifestyle habits that the kids will continue to use long after they move out. Best of all, when meal preparation is a shared event, you’ll have less stress and may be happier spending time in the kitchen. I sleep better knowing that the kids can navigate their way around the kitchen….do you?

I’d love to hear ways that you get the kids involved in the kitchen. Please leave a comment to share.

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