Science Says Teaching Kids To Cook Results In Healthier Choices

kids learning to cook

If you're the parent of a picky eater, you know the struggle is real when trying to get them to eat anything outside of the five or so items they're actually willing to gobble up. So much so that if a genie magically appeared to grant you three wishes, one of those would probably include expanding their palate to include anything other than pizza, hot dogs, or macaroni and cheese.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior wants to give parents a ray of hope that perhaps there really is a way to get their children to include more nutrition in their diets. How, pray tell, is that going to happen? By encouraging them to learn how to nourish themselves.

The researchers discovered that tweens and teens who developed solid cooking skills at a young age were more apt to eat nutritious meals as a adults. The study authors assert that knowing one's way around the kitchen, even as a kid, resulted in them snagging fewer fast food meals later in life. They were also more likely to engage in family dinners and include more veggies into each of their three squares a day.

TV chefs often encourage including kids in the kitchen, but when you're actually trying to get a breakfast, lunch, or dinner prepared, the idea of those tiny hands getting in your way or slowing the process down the concept can feel unrealistic.

son and dad cooking
Credit: iStock / jacoblund

So what's a mom or dad to do? Consider a set list of small jobs your kiddo can do for meal prep ahead of time so that you're not caught in the moment trying to come up with something safe they can do while dinner is burning on the stove top. This can include anything from peeling potatoes (there are plenty of kid-friendly kitchen items on the market) to measuring to stirring.

As kids get older you can start allowing them closer to the oven and stove, being sure to practice safety in regards to cooking methods.

And including your offspring in meal prep doesn't have to be a nightly thing. When you know you're running late or you have less than 30 minutes to get food on the table, redirect them to another activity so you can keep things moving. But when the opportunity does present itself, take a deep breath and let those kids in the kitchen. If it means they'll eventually stop scoffing at broccoli or anything that can't be dipped in ketchup, it will certainly pay off in the long run.

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