Everyone is born with his or her own personality, and these same traits influence a person’s relationship with food. My 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, was born with a confident, adventurous personality. It is no coincidence that she is fairly open-minded when it comes to trying new foods. My 7-year-old son, Evan, is more sensitive and apprehensive. And — you guessed it! — he approaches new foods the same way. In my private practice working with children and families, I encourage parents to see this connection in their own kids. It really helps understand how to better move each individual child along to food acceptance.
One universal thing you can do, regardless of personality type, is to make any food experience fun. If you combine that with empowerment, you've got yourself a winning combination.
National Farmers Market Week — August 3-8, 2014 — is meant to promote direct buying and selling between the farmer and the consumer, cultivating relationships and promoting customer loyalty to local farmers. And it's an excellent time to go on a food adventure with your kids. I recently did this with Hannah and Evan. I issued each of them what I call the Farmers Market Recipe Challenge. The guidelines were:
- Each child got $5 to spend at the Dallas Farmers Market
- They could choose any produce they wanted for their own recipe (I suggested searching recipes first)
- The recipe must have at least two produce items
The more children are invested in foods, the more likely they will eat them. The more variety they have in their diets, the more nutritionally complete those diets will be. We need to involve kids in more than just the eating of family meals. They need to get more involved in the planning, shopping and cooking as they get older. Families are so busy these days that if there is a family meal, the parent is often rushing to get it on the table; teaching kitchen and cooking skills is the last thing on their mind. But trust me, it pays off! Take the weekends to spend more time involving your kids, and have fun with it.
Aside from food and nutrition exposure, my kids learned planning skills from the farmers market challenge. They chose what to make, and developed a plan for executing that recipe. Each spent time on Pinterest, looked through our home recipes and cookbooks, and browsed recipe websites to find that one recipe they were going to make and eat!
While at the farmers market, they practiced their negotiating and budgeting skills. They only had $5, so Hannah had to negotiate her strawberry price down. Evan asked to buy smaller carrot quantities than advertised so he could have money left over for pineapple. I also had them each interview a farmer and find out where the farms were located. They were very curious as to how the food is grown and how they get it harvested and ready for sale at the market.
Once we were back home and ready to start cooking, Hannah and Evan — with my supervision — had leadership in their own individual recipes. They were able to practice kitchen skills such as measuring, blending and mixing. Hannah is older and experienced enough to use a paring knife, while Evan needed me to do his cutting and chopping for him.
I was pleasantly surprised when Evan found a Healthy Carrot Muffins recipe that he was interested in making. He has progressed much slower in food acceptance than Hannah, and it's very obvious in his vegetable intake. Hannah was set on making a fruity beverage. She chose a recent feature on the Kids Eat Right website — Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade. I was happy with her choice because she has a tendency to drink fewer fluids throughout the day. Summer is a great time to make fresh fruit drinks to promote fluid intake.
Hannah and Evan really enjoyed this challenge! One actual quote from Evan, when he was mixing the ingredients, was: “This smells so good. I am going to eat this for sure!” We all giggled at the confidence in which he made that statement. Hannah has always liked lemonade, but was apprehensive to mix strawberries in with it (she loves strawberries on their own and in smoothies). I'm happy to report that both kids loved their recipes and plan to make them again. And Hannah, who's been cooking with me for more than seven years now and wants to encourage other kids to get in the kitchen, is interested in starting her own YouTube cooking channel! Empowering them to do this has made them both rise to the challenge of being adventurous with new foods and recipes.
The best part of this experience for me was that it allowed us to work together as a team. My niece helped with recipe preparation, and my husband went to the store for a couple last-minute ingredients. All in all, it was a great family project that built great memories together. I look forward to their remembrance of our time together in the kitchen when they are older. It is one of those things I remember from my childhood, and it fills me with happy memories to this day.
Evan’s Recipe Choice: Healthy Carrot Muffins
Adapted from Food Network Kitchen
Makes 12 muffins
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine salt
2 large eggs
½ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 medium carrots, grated (about 2 cups)
½ cup fresh crushed pineapple, drained
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line 12 ½-cup muffin cups with paper muffin liners.
- Whisk the flour with brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
- In another medium bowl lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in the oil and vanilla extract. Quickly and lightly fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula.
- Stir in the carrots and pineapple just until evenly moist; the batter will be very thick.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until golden — a toothpick inserted in the centers should come out clean — about 30 minutes. Allow to cool before eating.
Nutrition Information (per muffin): calories 179, total fat 7g, saturated fat 1g, protein 3g, total carbohydrates 26g, fiber 2g, sugar 14g, cholesterol 31g, sodium 110mg.
Hannah’s Recipe Choice: Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade
As featured by Jessica Cox, RD on KidsEatRight.org
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
16-oz. container fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
¾ cup fresh lemon juice (about 10 large lemons)
3 cups naturally flavored strawberry sparkling water (or club soda or plan sparkling water)
- Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- Combine strawberries and half of the sugar-water mixture in a blender. Cover and process until very smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a 2-quart pitcher.
- Stir in remaining sugar mixture and lemon juice.
- Add sparkling water just before serving.
Nutritional Information (3/4 cup): calories 95, total fat 0g, carbohydrates 25g, fiber 1g, protein 0g.
Be sure to stop by your local farmers market, make some colorful purchases and thank a local farmer! Find a farmers market near you by visiting the USDA Farmers Market page.