When parents cook with their children and teens, it can be both tasty and educational, nutritionists say. It's an opportunity to learn about nutrition, be creative, and in some cases explore your family's heritage.
"Good eating habits start at home," says Danville dietician Terry Stowell.
While cooking, parents can explain that eating all four food groups is important so that your body can get the nutrients it needs to grow. Parents can point out that meat and eggs are high in protein for strong muscles, and fruits and vegetables have vitamins that help your immune system, which keeps you from getting sick.
Locally, the biggest problem kids and teens face with nutrition is that they are too busy to stop and eat a meal with all four food groups, Stowell said.
"The problem is they are skipping meals. They're on the run," she said.
But quick, fun meals are available and make for fun family projects, she said. While cooking, kids can also learn the importance of following directions, how to measure ingredients, and how to explore artistic ways to present the food.
When cooking with kids, parents can delegate tasks, according to the age of their son or daughter. Younger children can help stir, older children can measure ingredients, and teens can do prep work, like chopping, dicing and actual cooking.
Try "ants on a log," for example. This healthy snack is simply celery, peanut butter and raisins, arranged to look like ants marching on a branch. Or try "pizza face," a whole-wheat English muffin made into a mini-pizza, with droppings arranged into a facial expression.
"A lot of kids would love to cook if they were just shown how," Stowell said.
Slowing down and preparing meals together could be the key teaching kids healthy lifestyles early on, nutritionists say. Next time, try the dishes shown here.
Courtesy of ARAcontent
Natallie O'Neill contributed to this report
(Makes 1 serving)
1 frozen waffle or bread slice
1 tsp cooking oil or butter
1 Tbsp shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
Salsa, taco sauce or catsup, if you like
Let the frozen waffle thaw for about five or six minutes. With a 2- to 3-inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out the center of the waffle. Or, set a drinking glass upside down on the waffle and cut out the center of the waffle by cutting around the glass with a small knife.
In a medium-sized omelet pan or skillet (about 6 to 8 inches) over medium heat, heat the oil or melt the butter. Sprinkle a few drops of water into the pan. If the drops "dance" and sizzle in the pan, it's ready for cooking. Place the waffle and the cutout in the pan. Break the egg and slip it into the hole in the waffle. Immediately turn the heat down to low.
Let the waffle cook until the bottom is lightly browned, about three minutes. With a pancake turner, carefully turn over the cutout and the waffle with the egg inside. Sprinkle the egg with the cheese. Cook until the egg white is completely set and firm and the egg yolk begins to thicken, about three to five minutes more. With a pancake turner, lift the cutout and the waffle with the egg inside onto a plate. Spoon salsa, taco sauce or catsup on top of the egg, if you like.
Nutrition information per serving using waffle and corn oil without optional topping: 233 calories, 14 g total fat, 221 mg cholesterol, 348 mg sodium, 116 mg potassium, 15 g carbohydrate, 11 g protein and 10 percent or more of the RDI for vitamins A and B12 , niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, calcium, iron and phosphorus
Wagon Wheel Frittata
Makes 6 servings)
1 Tbsp cooking oil or butter
1 package (10 ounces.) frozen broccoli spears
1 Tbsp water
1 can (4 ounces.) button mushrooms, drained
1/3 cup skim or low-fat milk
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, crushed
6 very thin tomato slices
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a 10-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium heat, heat the oil or melt the butter. Add the broccoli and water. Cover and cook just until you can break the broccoli spears apart with a fork, about five minutes. Take the pan off the heat.
Arrange the broccoli spears around the pan so the stems point to the center of the pan. Set the mushrooms, rounded sides up, between the broccoli spears.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the eggs, milk and seasoning until they're thoroughly blended. Pour the egg mixture over the broccoli in the pan.
Cook the egg mixture over medium heat until the eggs are almost set on top. Take the pan off the heat. Place the largest tomato slice in the center. Cut the rest of the tomato slices in half and arrange them around the big slice so they look like wagon wheel spokes. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the frittata.
Cover the pan and let it stand until the eggs are completely set, about five minutes. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve it from the pan.
Nutrition information per serving of 1/6 recipe using corn oil: 133 calories, 8 g total fat, 214 mg cholesterol, 196 mg sodium, 261 mg potassium, 5 g carbohydrate, 10 g protein and 10 percent or more of the RDI for vitamins A, B12 and C, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus
For more information about the nutrition value of eggs, and to access more recipes, log on to www.IncredibleEgg.org.
Major nutrients found in certain food groups
Food Group - Meat and Meat Alternates
Foods in the Group - Meats, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, cooked dried beans, nuts and nut butters
Major Nutrients - Protein, fat, vitamins and minerals
Food Group - Fruits and Vegetables
Foods in the Group - Apples to zucchini
Major Nutrients - Carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber
Food Group - Grain Foods
Foods in the Group - Breads, hot and cold cereals, noodles, pasta, rice and tortillas, especially whole-grain foods
Major Nutrients - Carbohydrates, vitamins and fiber
Food Group - Milk Foods
Foods in the Group - Milk, yogurt and cheese
Major Nutrients - Protein, fat and calcium
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