With Thanksgiving right around the corner, adults and children alike are already beginning to think about the day’s feast: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
Local nutritionists agree that the holiday is a great time to get kids involved with the food preparation, and teach them quick and easy lessons about making healthy choices and portion control.
Monica Rojas, diabetes educator and dietician with Franciscan Medical Specialists, said encouraging kids to cook is a good way to get kids to try new foods.
“When kids cook or help with the preparation, they are more apt to try those foods,” she said.
Rojas said kids can start small by adding ingredients or rolling meatballs.
“It’s always good to have them do something with vegetables, since they’re more apt to eat that,” she said.
Kristal Markovich, a registered dietician at Methodist Hospitals, said cooking provides lasting memories for kids to have with their parents.
She said younger kids can put lettuce in bowls for salads or use cookie cutters to shape cookies, while older children can knead dough or chop vegetables.
“Parents are a big influence on whether kids will have healthy behaviors,” Markovich said. “It is important to start these healthy behaviors at a young age. Getting kids involved in the kitchen can help parents teach kids about healthy eating and give them a better understanding of how to prepare and cook healthy meals.”
It’s also good to talk to kids about choosing healthy foods and eating correct portion sizes, Rojas said.
Food safety is another important conversation to have, such as proper hand-washing techniques, heating and refrigeration regulations, Markovich said.
Rojas said each plate should include a serving of protein, starch, vegetable and fruit.
“It is important to serve kids an appropriate portion of food on a plate and let them ask for seconds instead of giving it to them right away,” she said. “One of the most challenging things is proper portions for our society today, which is why obesity and diabetes rates are so high and continuing to grow.”
Markovich said it is important to encourage kids to have a colorful plate when they eat.
“Fruits and vegetables are an important part of the diet. Color is nutritious,” she said. “You want a colorful plate half filled with fruits and vegetables.”
Rojas said it is also important to stress to kids that Thanksgiving isn’t a reason to “pig out.”
“There is no reason to skip breakfast or other meals so you can overeat at that meal,” she said. “That’s a big no no, and it’s teaching kids the wrong way.”
Whether you’re looking to Pinterest or other websites for kid-friendly recipes, there are hundreds of quick, easy kid-friendly recipes to get kids excited about food. The website parenting.com even has healthy, kid-friendly recipes that can either be served on Thanksgiving or created from left-overs.