What are the Benefits of Teaching Children How to Cook?
Cooking healthy foods as a family can improve nutrition while providing quality family time. Cooking with children sparks an interest in healthy foods and can increase the willingness to sit down and share a meal as a family. Preparing food gives children the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the family, which leads to a sense of accomplishment and can build self-confidence. The cooking skills your children develop will last into adulthood, giving them the tools they need to live healthier lifestyles.
Measuring and mixing are only one part of the cooking experience. Be sure to involve children in recipe reading to help them better understand the process of cooking food. Cooking can also teach lessons of science, family history, and food culture. By exploring how foods cook and bake and the essential ingredients for creating these reactions, you can focus on science education. You can celebrate your family history and food culture by preparing recipes that your grandparents used to make, or study the globe, pick your favorite country and prepare the national dish together.
When Should Children Start Cooking?
Children of all ages can be involved in the kitchen. Begin with basic tasks, and as children grow and build skills, continue to increase the responsibility while providing supervision as necessary. Children under 5 can scrub root vegetables, rinse greens in a colander, count or measure ingredients, stir, and sprinkle. Children from 5 to 10 can learn to crack and separate eggs, operate a stand mixer, mash foods, and roll out dough. When using safe, kid-friendly kitchen tools, older children can grate cheese, peel vegetables, and begin basic chopping and slicing.
What’s the Best Way to Start Cooking as a Family?
Begin with simple foods that are easy to prepare and assign each person a task from the recipe. For example, a breakfast smoothie requires enough steps for each person to play a role in the preparation. Someone can measure the fruit and milk, another can place the ingredients in the blender, someone can operate the blender, and another person can pour the drink into serving glasses. Make a salad by assigning tasks like whisking the dressing, peeling and chopping vegetables, and tossing the vegetables together in the bowl. As your family becomes familiar with being in the kitchen together, you can progress to more advanced cooking.
When working with raw meats, poultry, and seafood, practice good food safety to prevent foodborne illness. Never use the same tray or plate for cooked meats that were used to bring raw foods to the grill. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching raw foods. Disinfect surfaces that have come into contact with raw foods. Stay mindful of the rags you use around the grill. If you’ve used them to wipe dirty hands, get a new one and designate it for clean hands only.
Choose healthy options.
Grilling can be a healthy method for cooking, but you can boost your nutrition by choosing the right foods for your meal. Focus on poultry, fish, and seasonal vegetables. Chicken breasts can be cut and made into kebabs, and delicate fish can be cooked in foil packets. Corn on the cob, zucchini slices, eggplant slices, whole bell peppers, onion slices, and heads of romaine lettuce are all examples of vegetables that are delicious cooked on the grill. Don’t forget dessert. Warm fruit kebabs with berries, melon, and pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon or drizzled with honey make a healthy end to your cookout.
Marinate your meats.
Grilling meats at high heat has been linked to carcinogens in the food. Research shows that marinating meats may reduce these carcinogens. Make marinades with healthy oils, vinegars and juices, and always add fresh herbs. Studies have shown that fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme help reduce the carcinogens.
Pick healthier seasonings.
Rubs and seasoning mixes can be healthier options for flavoring grilled foods when compared to heavy sauces, but not all spice seasonings are created equal. Some have added sugar and high levels of sodium. Choose low-salt, sugar-free spice rubs to make your grilled meal healthier. If you can’t find a healthy rub you like, experiment with making your own. Equal parts of spices like chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic powder with a little salt and pepper can be made into a paste by stirring in heart-healthy olive oil. Rub down meats and vegetables with the paste before grilling.
Make sure it’s done.
Everyone has preferences for how they like their grilled foods to be cooked, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has set guidelines for grilling temperatures to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef to 160 degrees, and steaks to 145 degrees. Invest in a meat thermometer for safe and healthy grilling.
Research shows that the healthy bacteria living in our bodies improves digestion and immunity. We can boost these healthy bacteria by eating foods that contain probiotics like those found in fermented foods.
How are fermented foods made?
When a food is fermented, bacteria feed off of the natural sugars. This produces compounds that help preserve the food, and the food becomes filled with healthy bacteria and enzymes.
How do fermented foods improve health?
The healthy bacteria and enzymes help to break down the food. Simply put, they kickstart digestion before the food is eaten. As a result, the food is easier for the body to digest once it reaches the stomach. Digestive health is linked to inflammation, allergies and autoimmune disorders, which all play a role in illness. Because fermented foods improve gut health, they may also help boost the immune system to protect against illness. They may also help fight cancer. According to Tufts University, fermented cabbage has increased levels of cancer-fighting glucosinolates.
What are some examples of fermented foods?
Fermented foods have gained popularity in recent years and are now readily available. Many of these foods have always been around, but because of a renewed association with health, they get more attention.
Tempeh - made from fermented soybeans
Sauerkraut - made by fermenting cabbage
Kefir - made from fermented milk
Kombucha - a fermented tea drink
Yogurt - made by introducing beneficial bacteria to milk
Kimchi - made with fermented cabbage and Korean spices
Are all fermented foods healthy?
The bacteria and enzymes in fermented foods are healthy, but this can be overshadowed by unhealthy additives and flavorings. For example, some fermented foods can be high in sodium. Others have added sugar and artificial fruit flavors. Additionally, some fermented foods have been pasteurized to make them shelf-stable, which involves high-heat cooking that can kill the good bacteria. Stick with freshly fermented foods with little added sugar and salt, and consider making your own so that you can control additives and reap the full nutritional benefits.
When stocking your healthy kitchen this summer, keep your eye out for these foods. With so many varieties and so many ways to use them, you can keep your summer eating plan exciting and flavorful.
Nutrition: Bell peppers are loaded with vitamins and plant chemicals that act as antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, and carotenoids. Like cruciferous and allium vegetables, bell peppers also contain sulfur compounds that may protect against cancer.
Varieties: Bell peppers are no longer limited to red and green. Look for yellow, orange and many shades of purple to add color to your favorite recipes. Bell peppers are not spicy. Red, orange, and yellow varieties are sweet, while green and purple varieties have a slight bitterness.
How to use: You’ll retain many of the nutrients in bell peppers by eating them raw or cooking them at low heat for a short time. However, grilling or baking them will not strip away all nutritional benefits.
Dice bell peppers and add them to leafy salads, pasta salads, soups, salsas, or pizzas.
Grill whole bell peppers and then slice to serve with grilled meats, or add them to kabobs.
Roast bell peppers with root vegetables.
Stuff them with a mix of meat or vegetables and bake.
Add bell peppers to your homemade juices.
Nutrition: Corn provides fiber, folate, thiamin, vitamin C, and magnesium as well as
a variety of disease-fighting antioxidants.
Varieties: Sweet corn most often has white kernels, yellow kernels, or a combination of both colors, but varieties with purple or red kernels are becoming more available.
Grill or boil fresh corn on the cob, and top with herbs before serving.
Remove the kernels. Cook with bell peppers in a skillet, or roast them in the oven. The cooked corn kernels can be stirred into salsa, eaten alone, or sprinkled on salads and pizzas.
Nutrition: Cucumbers provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin C, and potassium. Cucumbers also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which may have anti-cancer benefits.
Varieties: There are many types of cucumbers available, and they vary in length, width, color, and thickness of skin. English cucumbers are long with thin skin and few seeds. Garden cucumbers are shorter with a thick skin. Persian cucumbers are often smaller with a tender skin and bright green color.
Snack on small Persian cucumbers with your favorite hummus.
Slice English cucumbers to stack on sandwiches.
Use garden cucumbers to make summer cucumber salads and slaws.
Nutrition: Eggplant is a source of dietary fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium, and folate. The skin of purple eggplants contains nasunin, which is an antioxidant that has been linked to protecting brain cells.
Varieties: Most eggplants are large, oblong, and deep purple. Some varieties, like Asian eggplants, can be long and thin, or small and round. They range in color from green and white to light purple.
Add chopped eggplant to stir-fries and curries.
Marinate and grill large eggplant slices.
Cut the eggplant in half, and scoop out some of the inside. Stuff with whole grains, vegetables and lean meats, and bake until tender.
Nutrition: Peppers contain vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid. The capsaicin found in hot peppers is linked to reduced appetite and increased metabolism.
Varieties: Varieties include Mexican jalapeños, Scotch Bonnet peppers from the Caribbean, and Bird’s Eye chiles of Thailand. Hot peppers come in all sizes and levels of heat. Colors include green, yellow, red, orange, and purple.
Tip: You can reduce some of the heat of hot peppers by removing the seeds before using.
Add diced hot peppers to omelets, stir-fries, soups, and salsas.
Puree hot peppers into pasta sauces.
Slice them and add to sandwiches or pizzas.
Nutrition: Watermelons provide potassium, magnesium, thiamin, and vitamins A, C and B6. The fruit also contains the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. There is also evidence that the nutrients in watermelons may boost the production of the amino acid arginine, which is beneficial to cardiovascular health.
Varieties: While the giant green watermelon with the red center is the most common type, watermelons can be found in many forms. Sizes range from large to small. Skins can be very light green (almost white), and the flesh can even be yellow-orange. Seedless varieties are also available.
Top salads with cubed watermelon.
Drizzle slices with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with feta cheese and herbs.
Add chunks of watermelon to grilled fruit kabobs.
Grill slices and serve warm.
Add watermelon to your homemade juice or blend it into smoothies.
Berries are one of the most fragile fruits, and moisture can cause them to spoil quickly. It is best to store them unwashed and rinse them under cold running water just before eating. Discard any damaged or spoiled berries before storing. Give your berries more space by removing them from the store container and placing them in a single layer in a loosely covered shallow container. Most types of berries will last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Whole grains still contain the germ, which is the portion of the grain with healthy oils. The presence of the germ makes the grains sensitive to heat, light, and moisture. According to the Whole Grains Council, grains like wheat berries and rice last longer than grains that have been ground into flours. Both whole grains and flours should be stored in an airtight container away from light and heat. Most grains will last 6 months in the pantry or 1 year in the freezer. Flours and meals will keep for 1 to 3 months in the pantry and 2 to 6 months when stored in the freezer.
Unrefined oils, like extra virgin olive oil and nut oils, are sensitive to air, light, and heat. When exposed, the fatty acids can turn rancid causing an unpleasant flavor. Store olive oil in a dark, cool place. Unopened bottles will last for 1 year. Once you open it, most varieties will last for 6 months. Nut and seed oils are even more sensitive than olive oil. As a result, store oils like sesame and walnut in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Like most root vegetables, onions should be stored in a well-ventilated, cool, dry place. Onions need air movement to stay fresh, so take them out of plastic bags before storing. The sweeter an onion, the higher its water content. This influences how easily it bruises and how long it will stay fresh. As a result, sweet onions like Walla Walla and Vidalia may have a shorter shelf life than other varieties. The National Onion Association suggests wrapping these onions in a paper towel or newspaper and storing them in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life. Once peeled, all onions should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Chopped or sliced onions will last 7 to 10 days.
Refrigeration will cause sweet potatoes to harden in the center and develop a bad taste.
Place sweet potatoes in a well-ventilated container set in a cool, dry place. A basement or root cellar are ideal, but simply keeping the potatoes away from heat will help extend their freshness. According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, when properly stored, sweet potatoes will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks.
Ripe tomatoes are best eaten within 2 to 3 days after purchase. Store your tomatoes at the coolest room temperature possible with the stem-side facing up, away from direct sunlight. Generally, storing tomatoes in the refrigerator can cause them to lose flavor. But according to the Division of Agriculture at the University of California Davis, if you have ripe tomatoes that you aren’t ready to eat, you can delay over ripening by placing them in the refrigerator for fewer than 3 days. Allow refrigerated tomatoes to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before eating to help improve the flavor.