I believe there are two things ranked highly in the “very important things to do in life” category. Number one, being a witness for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Number two, raising our children to fear God and create healthy Christian families of their own.

In the spirit of the latter, educating our children on how to plan, create and share healthy meals is essential. It is obvious today many adults do not know their way around a kitchen or how to create healthy meals from scratch. Habits form quickly when raising children. Introducing our children to delicious foods, as well as teaching them to enjoy the beauty of creating health-promoting meals should be a focus in every household.

In hopes to avert the next generation from the preventable nutrition-related diseases we find so prevalent in our society today, here are some ideas to get our children cooking healthy foods.

This blog will break down three areas for creating healthy meals where children can learn and be a part of the entire process. Planning meals, shopping for ingredients, and cooking in the kitchen.

Plan Together

Planning meals with your children gives them the opportunity to have their desires known. Children can be quite picky when it comes to eating. Try letting your children each have a night of the week they choose what is for dinner. Make sure to adjust the meal however necessary to incorporate healthy food items. For example, if your child only wants vegan chicken strips and peanut butter for dinner, consider having the vegan chicken strips along with a spinach, peanut and strawberry salad. Keep in mind, this is a great opportunity to teach them about how to build a healthy meal. Make sure to have a variety of colors and food groups represented at each meal.

Depending on their abilities, let them be creative. If they are new to this, give them choices. Let them decide if they want a pasta or rice dish for example. This gives them ownership over the meal. While we are at it, make sure to include everyone in your household when deciding what is for dinner that week or month. Children are not the only ones who can be picky or wish to have their dinner ideas for a tasty meal.

Shop Together

Once all the meals are decided on, have the child go through the fridge, freezer, and pantry to find all the ingredients already in the home. This will ensure no food items are purchased unnecessarily.  Or if you are really above and beyond go check the garden for fresh produce you grew yourself.

After that, is it time to go to the store! If you are able, take the children to the grocery store. There are so many sights, smells, and sounds they will enjoy. Give them a list of food they are responsible for getting. Make this list only 3-5 items depending on their age and skill level. Child-size grocery carts can be a lot of fun for them. This will engage their minds to hunt for their ingredients to complete their meal.

Learning about budgeting is also important. If the child is old enough, give them cash to buy their items. Tell them they must keep their purchases under that amount and encourage them to find the cheapest/best option. To really motivate them, let them keep the money that is left over from the items they purchased. Soon your children will be keeping you on a budget!

Cook Together

Now back at home, the real fun can begin. Working in a kitchen grabs the child’s mind and engages their senses. Children will love scooping, pouring, measuring, blending, and mashing. Young children can learn about colors, shapes, sounds, and flavors of foods. Older children can develop many of the skills you already have.

Obviously, keep them safe from any potential dangers. The responsibility is on you, the reader. When mistakes happen, reinforce the idea that mistakes are lessons to be learned. With children working in a kitchen, one thing is inevitable: there will be a mess. It will not be a small mess either. Which is completely fine. Messes lead to more lessons. Children can learn to be more careful and cleaner when they participate in cleaning up after themselves.

As you can see there are many benefits to having children participate in meal planning. Children benefit most from being with the family and learning from us so….plan together, shop together, cook together, and (the most important and fun part) eat together!

Talk, eat, and laugh together at the table. Have the little ones present their meals to the family and have them recall all of the steps taken to prepare the food! Our children will learn thousands of lessons from this. One day they will be cooking for their own families. Let’s set them on the right path while we can.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
– Proverb 22:6