healthy kids

"Don't Touch That!" and Other Safety Tips For Kids In The Kitchen

The idea of having the kids work side by side with you in the kitchen can seem almost dreamy until you find yourself screaming things like:

"Don't touch that!" 

"Put that down!" 

"You are going to lose a finger!" 

Next thing you know, you are frustrated, nobody is having any fun and you end up chasing everyone out of the kitchen because it will be that much easier to just do it yourself. (I have been there.) 

But that isn't what we really want to happen. 

We want our kids in the kitchen. We want them hands on with food and kitchen tools. We want them creating snacks and meals they can be excited about.

Let's take a minute to remember what our kids get out of cooking healthy meals in the kitchen with us. 

  • Kids become more familiar with healthy foods and are more likely to try a wider variety of food when they are involved in cooking. 
  • Kids pick up good practices you model and learn skills they will keep for a lifetime.
  • Kids start to associate cooking as a positive experience (if we are doing it right).
  • Kids learn to appreciate the time and energy that goes into food preparation.
  • The family can enjoy quality time together, having a chance to talk and bond. 

In order to get kids experiencing all of the good that comes out of being in the kitchen and make the occasions positive and memorable experiences for everyone, just keep in mind some simple safety rules that keep everyone safe and the kitchen running smoothly. 

 

Kitchen Safety Check for the Grown Ups:

  1. Put all tech devices, other than any being used to display a recipe, far, far away. Distractions in the kitchen can be dangerous. Besides, you have some awesome family time happening. Don't miss it by checking emails. 
  2. Make sure all appliances not being used are unplugged and out of the way.
  3. Unplug any appliances that will be used for cooking. (I only plug them in when we are ready to use them and I am there.) They should only be used with your supervision. 
  4. Be accountable for all sharp items including knives and peelers, etc. Know what is in reach of the children. Remove anything not needed for the current recipe.
  5. Take special precautions if the oven or stove are in use. (I like to place myself between the stove and the kids. If they are helping me at the stove, they have my full attention so as to keep them safe.) 
  6. Turn all pot and pan handles INTO the stove. Handles hanging over the edge can be grabbed, bumped and spilled. 
  7. Clear away any clutter or items not necessary for cooking.

Before inviting kids to join you in the kitchen, step back and take a good look at the cooking environment. Ensure that it is clutter free, clean, and set up with only the necessary tools and kitchen items. Consider setting up the kitchen with work stations prior to children joining you. I share some useful tips for this in Healthy Kids Thrive in the Kitchen (3 Ways to Get You Started)

 

Kitchen Safety Rules for the Mini Chefs:

  1. Wash hands, pull back hair and put on aprons BEFORE getting started.
  2. Work at your assigned station. 
  3. If you spill, clean it up.
  4. Ask questions when you are unsure or curious.
  5. Have a grown up's help when using knives or sharp objects. 
  6. Use the stove with a grown up.
  7. Only sample with permission. (Raw ingredients can be dangerous.) 
  8. Have fun and enjoy the delicious food you create!  

If you want the rules you set with the children to be extra effective, take a few minutes to create those rules TOGETHER when age appropriate. You can use this list as a guide for things you might want to cover.

Grab a piece of paper, a dry erase board, anything. Sit together and brainstorm some ways that you all think would keep everyone safe when you cook together. Write everything down and then post your collaborative list somewhere visible once you begin. Refer to it whenever you need to. 

Each of these lists could have been doubled or tripled in length, but I wanted to give you the enough basics to get started. Even still,  think about what additional considerations you might need based on your own kitchen set up, the recipe and the age of your children. 

It is funny how a few simple rules and considerations can make the kitchen adventures run smoothly and can ensure a lot of fun and learning for everyone. I hope that you can use some of the safety rules here and maybe some more of your own, as a foundation that allows you to make some great memories with your little chefs. 

If you are ready for more awesome ideas, accountability and support, I have 2 fantastic options for you (and you can take them BOTH!) 1. Join The Real Moms's Collaborative Facebook group. This is a brand new group and already a beautiful community of moms building a healthier life for themselves and their families one step at a time. And 2. sign up for my newsletter and get a FREE COPY of BE A HEALTHIER MOM IN 30 DAYS! (That is a little BONUS from me to you!) You will get tips, advice and support right in your inbox. 

Thank you for reading! Until next time! 

 

Easy Ways to Help Kids Understand Food Labels

When I head to the local supermarket to do some grocery shopping I am rarely ever alone. I always have at least one supermarket helper... or two... or three. 

I know that getting grocery shopping done with children in tow can be challenging. For one, you split your energy between picking out the best foods and getting everything on your list and minding the kids. But somehow we manage that juggling act.

Usually.

(Honestly, I have abandoned a cart and lugged some misbehaving kids out of the supermarket on a day when it was just not working.... but in general, us moms do ok.)

The extra challenge is walking up and down aisles that are filled with food products that are brightly colored packages decorated with fun characters, promising "awesome" prizes, glittering stars and every marketing strategy short of handing out balloons and fuzzy puppies. We have to walk passed foods that are marketing to our children and marketing hard. 

For a while this used to really bother me. I mean, as a busy mom I am sometimes just trying to survive the supermarket experience. But food corporation' advertising and store displays stack the odds against me of leaving the store without giving into some indulgent food choices that I had no intention of buying. (Very sneaky, guys.) 

It was a few years ago though that I decided quite consciously to use the brightly colored packaging, all of the sugary snacks at eye-level and the 1,000's of "kid products" with sketchy ingredients throughout the supermarket as the perfect teaching tools they can be. Instead of walking around chanting, 

"No."

"No."

"Put that back."

"No."

"No."

"I said, 'Put that back!'"

I decided to give my kids the tools and knowledge to make their own healthy decisions. 

When we teach our kids to understand food labels and even some of the marketing of food like packaging and other things, they are empowered to make their own healthy choices. And when that happens, they become so much more invested in healthier living. They don't do it because "mommy makes me". They do it because "I know which is better for me." 

That is priceless.

 

There are 4 easy ways to support your children in becoming:

  • more knowledgeable about food

  • empowered to make their own healthier choices

  • invested in which healthy foods come home and end up on their plate

  • informed about marketing

  • a whole, healthy food warrior FOR LIFE!

 

Sound good?

 

Let's get started:

 

1. Teach kids to "read" labels.

Kids do not need to be able to actually read in order to use this strategy effectively. With a little guidance about where the list of ingredients begins and ends, they can use their fingers to find out if a product has a short or long list of ingredients. Although there are exceptions to every rule, typically the longer the list of ingredients, the more processed the food is and more likely it is to contain controversial ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, food dyes, artificial flavors and many more. 

Healthier food choices tend to have much shorter ingredient lists. Young readers might even be able to read and recognize the short ingredient list on healthier foods.

As the grown up on duty, I make the final decision, but the children know that they are much more likely to get the thumbs up on a snack choice or any other food if it has a short ingredient list. If that short list includes, sugar, HFCS, pure cane syrup and natural sweetener, sure. You can guess it will still get nixed. But in general, this strategy works very well in hunting down healthier choices. When kids have done the work to hunt down and choose something healthy to add to the shopping cart, they have a great sense of accomplishment. 

 

2. Search for the USDA Certified Organic label.

Kids can recognize symbols, trademarks and logos of 100's of products and companies at a young age. There is no reason why we can't spin that idea to the other side of the spectrum and have kids recognize and look for the USDA Organic label, right? 

Why is it important to teach kids how to spot organic food? The USDA Organic seal means that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. It also means that those ingredients were grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and are not genetically-modified organisms. Animal products should have had no exposure to antibiotics or hormone and that is just some of what the USDA Organic label should mean. In short, when you buy organic, you are getting a cleaner, less contaminated food. 

When I ask one of my kids to grab ketchup, a bag of rice, or frozen peas... they know that after they find the right section, their next step is to find that organic seal. When they return with their find, I add in an extra dose of high 5's and a ton of praise so my kids further associate choosing healthy foods with good, positive feelings. 

 

3. Search for the non-GMO butterfly

 

When you find the non-GMO butterfly it lets you know that you have a product that was made without the use of genetically engineered ingredients. Many moms feels that without sufficient proof that GMO's are safe to consume, choosing non-GMO as often as possible is a safer choice. 

Choosing organic products means that they are also non-GMO. However, while shopping in your supermarket, you may notice that although some products are not labelled as organic, they still are non-GMO certified. Becoming familiar with the non-GMO label is another helpful tool for our children to have when searching out the healthiest choices. 

This is an easily identified label for kids to search for. The tell-tale butterfly stands out on any bag, box or can. Letting kids know that finding this label on their food is a good thing further supports them in making good choices about food. 

 

4. Talk About Marketing

I can remember the first conversation I had with my son about marketing. We were walking through the supermarket and he spotted some "cool" juice boxes with a colorful surfer in the middle of a brightly decorated box. 

He had to have them. 

But I was never going to approve that choice.

I didn't want to just say, "No." and move on. He would have stomped through the rest of the aisle with a pouty face for the rest of the trip. (You have been there, right?)

Plus the only message he gets in that situation is : My mom doesn't let me get the cool juice boxes. 

So I asked him to check the label. 

The list of ingredients was not "mom-approved" and I pointed to a few and explained a couple of simple ways that they were not healthy. From there is was easy to transition into talking about how cool characters, bright colors and the promise of prizes at the bottom of the box were great ways to get you to forget to check the ingredients. They are kind of like  "tricks" that can distract you from making healthy choices. 

From then on, even when he saw his favorite characters, themes or anything else flashy and eye-catching, he would always say something like, "No way am I getting tricked! I am gonna check the ingredients!"

Eventually he stopped checking the ingredients on those kind of food choices. The consistency of always finding an ingredient list either too long or loaded with the ones we try to avoid helped him realize big marketing and healthy food rarely go together. 

He figured that out on his own. That was the coolest part.

Companies spend bucket loads of money on marketing and in marketing to children in particular. As parents, it doesn't cost us a dime to level that playing field by teaching kids that food companies will try very hard to get their attention but that we have to be able to remember what makes a food choice a healthy one and still make the right decisions.

These strategies are all very empowering for children who we are working hard to raise up as happy, healthy little humans. These 4 strategies make a deep impact that will make it more likely that our kids will truly understand more about food and healthy choices. Even more, these strategies put the power of healthy decisions in our children's hands. 

Thank you for reading. I hope that if you are able to use any of the strategies I mention in this post, that you will let me know how it goes. I love to hear from you. You can post an update to my Facebook page or email me directly! 


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Raising Healthy Eaters

Just how important it is to do my best to raise healthy eaters is something I think about a lot. 

But it is not always an easy thing to do.

I totally get the struggle of working to get kids on board with healthy eating. Whether it is just an occasional struggle or an everyday battle, we have all been there and will probably continue to go there. But keep reading because there is hope! 

One big reason why we have to find the motivation to continue promoting healthy eating in our home is because kids who eat healthy are more likely to become adults who eat healthy. Seeing the plague of increasing health issues in our country, it is more than obvious that we NEED to inspire our children to learn about, love and value healthy foods as if their lives depend on it. 

Because they do. 

Although the need for this is serious, the methods do not have to be all that complicated..

In fact, these 3 tips for raising healthy eaters that I am sharing with you now are actually pretty simple. 

So let's get started...

Raising Healthy Eaters:

1. Lead by example. 

You may be fixing your children a healthy meal three times a day but they are more likely to maintain that habit if they see you eating the same healthy foods. If you present them a plate of whole, healthy food but then you yourself are only having a cup of coffee, or microwaving something less healthy for yourself, the message that healthy eating is important gets lost. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that they are paying very close attention to what we do. So sit at the table together, eat the same foods and you will be sending a powerful, unspoken message to them about healthy habits. That is a message they are more likely to carry into adulthood.

 

2. Give choices.

I say this often and that is because it makes a real difference not only with my own children but for so many other moms and their children as well. Whenever one of my adorable mini-humans asks for a snack, I give a choice: olives or kales chips? Apple or pear? Hummus with cucumbers or carrots? No more open-ended questions when it comes to food! 

It is a win-win. They get the snack that they asked for. I get another healthy food in their little bellies.

Choices also help them feel empowered about food. They get a say in what they eat plus they are getting in the habit of picking something healthy, thanks to your guidance! 

 

3. Get them involved.

Do your children come along to the supermarket? In this month's monthly edition of the Real Moms' Inner Circle we are talking all about HEALTHY SUPERMARKET SHOPPING. One very effective way to get kids involved in healthy eating is by having them help make some of those choices. 

To get them engaged I will let one of my supermarket helpers choose a new fruit or vegetable to bring home. If there is nothing new and exciting that catches their eye, we just go with a favorite or two, but there is almost always something new that they want to bring home. 

I first tried yucca when my son spotted a 2-foot long yucca at our local supermarket. I am not sure when I would have tried it on my own but he forced my hand. We brought it home and made some delicious yucca fries that week! We have brought home and eaten a great variety of things since then, all thanks to my kids being involved in the shopping. 

 

One of the weekly healthy challenges in the Real Moms' Inner Circle community is to let the kids pick something new from the fruit & veggie aisle in the supermarket. I am really looking forward to seeing the choices everyone makes! 

Now, if you are not yet a part of the amazing community of moms in the Real Moms' Inner Circle, now is the time to join!  The Real Moms' Inner Circle is where busy moms go to get the tools, resources and motivation they need to build a healthier life for themselves and their family. Log in TODAY and you can try it for FREE for 30 Days!

 

I would LOVE to welcome you into our awesome community! 

 


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