Tips for Cooking Healthy Meals with Kids

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It can be tough to get your kids excited about healthy meals, but getting them on the road to enjoying them lowers their risk of health problems later on in life.

To help parents develop relationships with their kids at meal time, Uncle Ben’s has launched a contest called Ben’s Beginners. If you enter the contest you could have the chance to win $20,000 (wow!) and a $50,000 grant towards a cafeteria makeover for your children’s school. Plus you will have the chance to be on The Rachael Ray show! <—Jealous…she is one of my favorites! So here’s how you enter: if you have children between the ages of 5 and 12, submit a 2-3 minute video of your family (that means your children AND you!) cooking a rice-based dish. To learn more about the contest including the official rules and deadlines, visit Ben’s Beginners on Facebook.

My daughter is now a teenager, but we did plenty of cooking in the kitchen together when she was younger, here are some of my tips for cooking healthy meals with kids.

1. Let the Little Ones Choose Food They Aren’t Fussy About. Have your children choose foods like cheese, grapes and whole grain crackers and let them make up an appetizer tray. Pre-cubed cheese works great for this, and the kids can wash and take the grapes off the stems. This will keep them happy and give them some nutritious food to munch on until you’re ready to serve the hot food!

2. Dip! Never under estimate the power of dip to get your kids to eat raw veggies. Using some spices or pre-made packets and low fat sour cream, your kids can be in charge of this themselves while you work in the kitchen together preparing your dinner.

3. Get chopping! Kids can use knives, they just need to be taught to be careful with them. Size is the key and just make sure they are sharp. A paring knife is perfect for a five to eight year old. Kids can chop, slice and dice vegetables for salads, and they love it when you let them have that responsibility. Salad making is something they can do while you supervise and still prepare a different part of the meal. We had a child’s safe knife from Pampered Chef that wasn’t even that sharp, but it worked. Our daughter used it until she was about nine. I don’t know if they still sell it or not, but it’s a great way to teach knife basics with your children.

4. Make things “fun” size. There is a reason kids like chicken nuggets. They’re small and easy to pick up and eat with their fingers. You can create lots of healthy dinners in your kitchen by letting your kids make smaller versions. Making turkey meatloaf? But some mini loaf pans and let the kids make and bake one of their own. If you’re making breaded chicken breasts, cut up a breast for your kids and let them make their own nuggets. Kids are proud of their accomplishments and are more apt to eat healthy foods if they make them ‘by themselves’.

5. Don’t forget the music! To first get my daughter interested in cooking with me, I let her pick out any CD she wanted to and put it on while we worked in the kitchen together. This way it felt more like “play time” then it did “work time”. No matter how annoying it was to listen to some of those songs, it made her excited to be in the kitchen helping me out.

What kind of tips do you have for cooking healthy meals with kids? And if you enter the contest….Good Luck!

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

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