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Involving Children in Meal Planning to Promote Healthy Eating

by Belinda Breeze

Involving children in meal planning can be a fun and educational experience that encourages their interest in healthy eating. Here are some tips to get children involved in the meal-planning process:

  1. Discuss Food Choices: Sit down with your child and have a conversation about the importance of healthy eating. Talk about different food groups, their benefits, and how they contribute to overall well-being. Help them understand the importance of balanced meals.
  2. Plan Meals Together: Set aside dedicated time each week to plan meals together as a family. Let your child have a say in selecting meals and snacks for the week. Encourage them to choose a variety of foods from different food groups and consider their preferences and dietary needs.
  3. Create a Meal Calendar: Use a visual food planner or a whiteboard to organise and display your weekly meals. Include your child in the process of writing down meal ideas and their preferred alternatives. This gives kids a sense of ownership and excitement for forthcoming meals.
  4. Explore Recipes and Cookbooks: Browse through cookbooks, recipe websites, or cooking apps with your child. Let them pick out recipes that catch their interest and are aligned with your family’s dietary preferences. Encourage them to read the ingredients and instructions, and discuss the nutritional value of the recipes.
  5. Grocery Shopping Together: Bring your child along when you go grocery shopping. Give them a shopping list and allow them to help find the items. Encourage them to choose fruits, vegetables, or other ingredients they want to try. Teach them how to read food labels to make informed choices.
  6. Prep and Prepare: Involve your child in meal preparation tasks suitable for their age and skill level. They can help wash vegetables, measure ingredients, mix, or assemble dishes. Engage them in age-appropriate cooking activities, such as chopping soft ingredients with a child-safe knife or stirring ingredients in a bowl. Also, teach your child about the importance of food presentation. Involve them in garnishing dishes with fresh herbs, arranging fruits and vegetables in appealing ways, or creating fun shapes with cookie cutters. This can make meals visually appealing and exciting for them.
  7. Reflect and Evaluate: After each meal, have a conversation with your child about what they liked and didn’t like. Ask them for suggestions on how to improve or modify recipes. This encourages critical thinking and helps them develop their taste preferences.
  8. Celebrate Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s involvement in meal planning and preparation. Show appreciation for their ideas and efforts. This positive reinforcement motivates them to continue participating in the process.

Remember, be patient and allow your child to express their preferences and explore new foods at their own pace. Meal planning together can be an enjoyable bonding experience that nurtures their interest in a lifetime of good food and healthy eating.