Having the right nutrition and eating healthy are so important to young children as they grow. Children need basic nutrition for normal growth and development, resistance to illnesses, cognitive functioning, and energy (Robertson. 2013). A child’s highest rate of grown is during infancy, so receiving the appropriate amount of nutrient-rich meals is key for the energy they will need at this time for their rapid growth (Robertson. 2013). To continue to grow up properly and healthy they need to continue to receive the right amount of nutrient-rich meals. In our text Robertson (2013) states, “Foods provide the basic nutrients needed for the body to grow, repair, regulate, and maintain itself “ (p. 229).
Adults, such as parents, teachers and childcare workers, should actively help children develop health eating habits that will last their lifetime (Robertson, 2013). At such a young age these children lack the right skills to make smart and healthy choices about food so they need adults to help guide and teach them. One way we as childcare workers can help a child establish healthy eating habits is through teaching control over food by creating limits surrounding food, being consistent in food choices and providing opportunities for children to exercise their own control over food (Robertson, 2013). As adults we can also model the right eating habits, young children watch every move and choice we make so when we chose to eat vegetables over sweets, they might chose to do the same thing. So if we are excited about try a new vegetable the children watching you will see that excitement and want it. I think the best way to get children excited and involved is by letting them help you make the menus, go grocery shopping, and prepare the meals. Children thrive off of being a part of something and helping create it. In our text Robertson (2013) says, “Encouraging children to be a part of the process can empower them with the knowledge and awareness necessary to make better nutritional choices” (p. 315).
Cooking with children can be a challenge sometimes but it’s fun for them and they are learning about nutritious meals and how to prepare them. Here are three examples of healthy, kid-friendly recipes that include food choices that provide a good balance of the nutrients children need for healthy growth and development.
Recipe 1: Vegan Almost Raw Cookie Dough Balls (Vegangela. 2014)
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes
- 1 Cup Gluten Free Oats
- 1 Ripe Banana
- ½ Cup Grated Dry Unsweetened Coconut
- 3 TBSP Agave Syrup
- 2 TBSP Coconut Oil
- 1 TSP Vanilla Extract
- ½ Cup Vegan Chocolate Chips
- In a food processor, add the oats, and pulse for 20 seconds in order to break the oats down slightly.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (EXCEPT the chocolate chips) and pulse until fully combined.
- Stir-in the chocolate chips.
- If the dough is too soft/sticky, refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden it slightly, then roll into 12 balls and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Recipe 2: Perfect Peach Smoothie (Woodward. 2013)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Total Time: 5 Minutes
- 1 Frozen Banana
- 1 Peach
- 6 Frozen Strawberries
- ½ Cup Almond Milk
- A Few Ice Cubes
- 1 TBSP Ground Flaxseed
- 1 TBSP Chia Seeds
- Cut and freeze banana and strawberries the day before. So they are ready in the morning.
- Cut peach into small pieces.
- Place all fruit in a blender with the almond milk and ice cubes. Add optional items as well.
- Blend until smooth. Depending on how thick or runny you like your smoothies you might like to add more liquid, either more almond milk or a little water.
Recipe 3: Chicken Salad (Kids Health. 2012)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes
- ½ Cup Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
- ¼ Cup Low-fat Mayonnaise
- ½ TSP Salt
- ½ TSP Black Pepper
- 1 Large Celery Stalk, Finely Chopped
- ¼ Cup Red Onion, Finely Chopped
- ½ Cup Grapes, Cut in Half
- 2 Cups Roasted Chicken, Chopped into Small Chunks
- 4 Cups Romaine Lettuce, Coarsely Chopped
- In a large bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, celery, red onion, grapes, and chicken.
- Mix gently until everything is well coated in dressing.
- Divide lettuce between four bowls.
- Top each bowl with some chicken salad. Serve cold.
To make the cooking fun for children, adults should talk about the cooking activity and encourage their children to participate in making it. Always try and make it sound interesting and exciting for the children so they can choose to join in on making the meal on their own, rather than you forcing them to help. Make the kitchen an inviting place to work in. Play some music in the background or make up your own song about the food your creating. Get the children involved, ask them to help get all the ingredients out of the cabinets and refrigerator. Have a stool ready so they can be up and able to see what’s going one. Have them help stir or even cut using children’s safety knives (http://curiouschef.com/). We should always praise and encourage the children for their efforts, so they can become more confident in their cooking skills. Also, going over the nutritional value of each ingredient with the children will help them understand the importance of each and the benefit they have. Lastly, just have fun and be safe!
Kids Health. (2012). Recipes for kids. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/kid/recipes/recipes/chicken_salad.html#cat20229
Robertson, C. (2013). Safety, nutrition, and health in early education (5th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Vegangela. (2014). Dessert recipes: almost raw cookie dough balls. Retrieved from http://vegangela.com/2014/01/10/almost-raw-cookie-dough-balls/
Woodward, E. (2013). Deliciously Ella. Retrieved from http://deliciouslyella.com/recipe/perfect-peach-smoothie/