One of the best ways to familiarize your child with good food choices is to encourage her to cook with you. Let her get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving.
When you are planning meals with her, try to include items from the important food groups. Explain the importance of making low-fat choices whenever possible, choosing chicken and fish rather than red meat in most cases, or choosing low-fat cheeses over higher-fat varieties. Particularly in her first few efforts at helping in the kitchen, let her select recipes that she and other family members have enjoyed in the past, so she can see what's involved in preparing them.
In assigning tasks to your child, keep in mind that they need to be age-appropriate. For instance, you wouldn't give a six-year-old a sharp knife to chop vegetables, although she can certainly wash the lettuce. Nor would you let her remove a hot, heavy casserole pot from the oven, although she can carefully open the oven door for you.
Here are some other guidelines to keep in mind:
- Make certain that you or another adult is in the kitchen at all times when your child is helping out.
- When your child pares vegetables, show her how to point sharp edges away from her to avoid accidents.
- Explain how she should weigh and measure ingredients.
- Use the rear burners when cooking on the stove. Make sure that pot handles are turned inward so children can't accidentally knock them off the stove.
- Teach your child the importance of using potholders when touching hot saucepans and other items.
- Shut off the oven and burners when you're finished cooking.