Tips for preparing healthy meals as a family
Looking for ways to incorporate freshly prepared, healthy meals into your family’s routine? Try involving your little ones.
Having your children help you in the kitchen is a great way to get them to try new foods, says Cristy Crump, WIC certifier at MultiCare WIC office in Puyallup.
Children feel good about doing something “grown up,” especially when you give them small, doable tasks and praise their efforts, she says.
Plus, engaging kids in the planning, shopping and cooking process has been shown to produce more adventurous eaters and healthier children in general, says Suzanne Baxter, health promotion coordinator for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.
“Kids are often more likely to eat something they helped prepare,” says Rachel Markham, nutrition educator for the MultiCare WIC office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM).
Not sure how your child can help? Here are some suggestions for ages 2 through 5:
2 years old
- Wipe tables
- Hand items to adult to put away (such as groceries)
- Put things in trash
- Tear lettuce or greens
- Help “read” a cookbook by turning the pages
- Make “faces” out of pieces of fruits and vegetables
- Rinse vegetables or fruits
- Snap green beans
3 years old
All that a 2-year-old can do, plus:
- Add ingredients
- Talk about cooking
- Scoop or mash potatoes
- Squeeze citrus fruits
- Stir pancake batter
- Knead and shape dough
- Name and count foods
- Help assemble a pizza
4 years old
All that a 3-year-old can do, plus:
- Peel eggs and some fruits, such as oranges and bananas
- Set the table
- Crack eggs
- Help measure dry ingredients
- Help make sandwiches and tossed salads
5 years old
All that a 4-year-old can do, plus:
- Measure liquids
- Cut soft fruits with a dull knife
- Use an egg beater
Cooking classes for parents
MultiCare’s WIC program offers several food and cooking classes aimed at parents who want to prepare healthy meals on a budget and cook with their kids.
In one class, “Let’s Cook,” parents are given cooking demonstrations of recipes that use exclusively WIC foods. The goal is to show families how to cook budget-friendly, fresh meals on a budget.
“We try to help people save money,” says Markham, who teaches the class at the MultiCare WIC office at JBLM. “We want to show people how they can use their WIC foods, or foods they may already have in their homes.”
Two quick tips: Look for recipes in which all ingredients go into one pot and recipes that produce a large quantity so you’ll have leftovers the next day. Buy pre-chopped vegetables and fruits when you can to save time and effort.
Not on WIC? Try the “Family Wellness Workshop,” for all parents who want to jump-start their progress on making healthy changes. The class is offered in Tacoma and covers meal planning, how to realistically incorporate family meals and tips for creating balanced meals.
“We encourage families to be realistic about how many ‘family meals’ they are able to hold weekly but to make a commitment to eating together,” says Baxter.
Interested in cooking classes? Contact a WIC location near you for current offerings.