Cooking can be a fun way to promote healthy eating.

Chances are, you’ve been doing a lot more cooking than usual. But whatever your own skill level in the kitchen, now is a great time to get your kids involved.

Family cooking in the kitchen“Engaging kids in the kitchen at a young age encourages them to take ownership of the food that goes into their bodies,” says Dana Medaris, RDN, LD, a community education dietitian at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. “Children are so much more capable than we think they are.”
Medaris says younger kids can help with picking out recipes and scrubbing vegetables.

“Adding ingredients and mixing are also great,” Medaris says.

While children might be more inclined to help out if you’re making cupcakes or another sweet treat, Medaris says working together on healthy meal options provides a great opportunity to introduce the concept of nutrition.

“It’s hard for kids to fully comprehend how vegetables help prevent chronic disease, but they love to hear that carrots help their eyesight or that meat and beans create strong muscles,” Medaris says.

Medaris also recommends buying age-appropriate knives to begin teaching knife safety early on.

“A serrated knife with no sharp points is a good place to start for toddlers,” Medaris says. “As children get older, there are knives made of special material, including nylon, that cut food but do not cut skin.”

She also says online cooking videos can be a great way to get your kids interested in learning a specific cooking technique or recipe.

“But the simplest way to get started is to just involve them as you cook and prepare meals,” Medaris says. “Start simple, and keep the dialogue going. The more you talk about it, the more natural it will seem.”

Pumpkin Dip
There are lots of fun ways to create Halloween-themed snacks, from turning your pigs in a blanket into mummies or cutting sandwiches into creepy shapes like coffins. But you can’t go wrong with an easy—and healthy—pumpkin dip for a delicious seasonal treat.

  • 1 15-ounce can plain pureed pumpkin
  • 1 cup plain, low-fat (regular or Greek) yogurt, ricotta or cream cheese
  • Up to ¾ cup sugar 
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, cheese or yogurt and spices; blend until smooth. (For a smoother texture, use a hand mixer, immersion blender or food processor.) Slowly add sugar, tasting as you go, until you reach desired sweetness. Serve with sliced fruit.

Nutrition information
(varies depending on dairy used)

Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Calories: 40 to 45
Total fat: 0.5 to 1g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Sodium: 25 to 45mg
Total carbohydrates: 8g
Protein: 1g

Source: Oregon State University Extension Service