October is Eat Better, Eat Together Month. Imagine fresh, colorful meals and happy faces around a beautifully decorated table. If your reality is far from it, don’t fret. Eat Better, Eat Together Month represents a really great goal – and there are several little changes you can make to ensure eating well, together, is a more regular part of your family’s life.
If you ask us, it all starts with involving the kids in meal prep. What’s key is keeping it fun (and focused), and in turn, much easier for you! (Yes please.)
We’ve pulled together some top tips from parents of toddlers to teens for getting the kids involved in the process:
- Julie, mom to two kids aged 6 and 9: I cut up a bunch of fresh fruit and veggies at the beginning of the week. The rule is they have to pick one fruit and one veggie to put in their lunches every day. Really makes it easier to follow the rule when everything is pre-cut and ready to go.
- Natalie, mom to a 15-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl: I started taking my kids to the farmers market when they were young. They each got to pick out a fruit, vegetable or other healthy food for the week, and we would prepare it together. They weren’t allowed to pick the same thing every week. Fresh foods look beautiful at the farmers market, and they loved talking to the people who grew them. It sparked an early interest in healthy and delicious foods, and in creative ways to prepare them. They’re teenagers now, and they eat well (usually!) and love being in the kitchen and experimenting with food prep.
- Jason, dad to a 16-month-old girl and a 3-year-old boy: My wife and I wanted to get our kids involved in cooking at an early age, so we made a “learning tower” out of an IKEA stool. There’s a rail of sorts so it’s a lot safer than a step stool, and they can crawl up in it by themselves to watch and help us cook. This was a great way to get them up to counter height and get them involved in the whole process.
- Maliya, mom to two girls aged 15 and 12: I let them loose in the grocery store so they can shop for produce and healthy ingredients they actually want to eat. They are much more invested in the kitchen when they have a hand in making the decisions.
- Kim, mom to two kids aged 3 and 5: Give two options for fruits and vegetables – “Do you want blueberries or strawberries? Carrots or cucumbers?” They have to pick ONE, but it is their choice, which is helpful with strong-willed toddlers.
- Mark, dad to two boys aged 8 and 11: We just ask them to help. The messier the proposition the more interested they seem to be!
- Greg, father to two twin boys turning 14: We actually try to marry math (measuring) to following recipes. Now when the kids help me, I usually double or cut a recipe in half and have them figure out what each item’s measurement should be. My kids love it and it gives them ownership of the finished product – plus they are more willing to eat it.
Hopefully these tips help you take that first step toward eating well, eating together, and encouraging lifelong healthy habits and an appreciation for new foods.