One of my goals as a dietician and educator is to get people cooking at home more often. After all, there is no doubt that good health starts with the foods we nourish our bodies with each day, and the more we cook at home, the better our chances are for choosing and eating truly healthy meals. And, while it is important to feed our adult bodies well, it is certainly equally as important to nourish our children and to eat well with them; for children learn lifelong habits by watching the behaviors of their most important adults.
Research shows that kids who eat more meals at home with their families tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; have a lower risk of obesity; and have better psychosocial health as teens than kids who eat fewer family meals. And the benefits of cooking and eating meals together at home even extend beyond good health. Around the world, families share traditional foods and pass on their cultural heritage over homemade meals. Eating and cooking together can help family members communicate and connect with each other in new and unexpected ways. And cooking together helps kids learn important life skills, which, in turn, builds self-esteem and promotes healthy independence.
And so, this will be the first of several episodes of Your Healthy Kitchen designed to help families of any size prepare simple, affordable, healthy meals at home, more often.
Our recipe is from one of my favorite family-friendly cookbooks Get Your Family Eating Right, by Lynn Fredericks and Mercedes Sanchez. They are the team at FamilyCook Productions – pioneers in culinary-focused nutrition education for all ages, with programs operating in schools across the country. Their easy-to-read book includes delicious and simple, family-friendly recipes; tips and words of wisdom about creating and enjoying family meals; and even a 30-day plan designed to get you and your kids in the kitchen, more often. They advocate using mealtime as a way to explore the world from your kitchen to broaden the flavors and textures of food that your children are familiar with and begin to accept and enjoy.
So — enough talk, let’s check out one of the most simple and delicious recipes in Lynne Fredericks book – it’s a recipe perfect for spring and early summer, featuring pasta, snap peas and one of my favorite herbs, fresh mint. Click the link below for complete Snap Peas and Mint Pasta recipe.
Easy-peasy, right? So, for those of you wondering how to turn cooking time into family time, Lynn Fredericks offers some words of wisdom:
- First, kindle your own love of good food by remembering home cooked meals as a child or favorite foods you enjoyed. Bring that love into your own kitchen and table, and your enthusiasm will be contagious.
- Change your perspective about ‘kid’s food’. In American culture, for a variety of reasons, we have learned to think that kids like mac and cheese, pizza, and chicken nuggets and nothing else. But, in reality, when introduced to a world of flavors, colors and cuisines in positive and interactive ways, kids get really excited about, and learn to love, healthy, delicious, home-cooked food.
- Let children be included in meal preparation, even if it is just slicing one vegetable or trimming the leaves off sprigs of herbs and adding them to the pot. Kids will get used to the rhythm of the kitchen and will get excited about making a legitimate contribution to the meal.
- Let go of perfection. This is family cooking, not a four-star restaurant. Onions don’t’ need to be perfectly diced and if a child throws in a bit more herbs or flavoring than a recipe states – relax. It will still taste great and your kids will be excited about whatever you prepare.
And, most importantly, have fun making cooking time family time. Kids can help plan menus, shop, and set the table in addition to preparing part of the meal with you. The folks at FamilyCook productions have conducted extensive research that recommend meal- time rituals like lighting candles, waiting for everyone to be seated before eating, and expressing gratitude for the meal, creates a very special and unique space for your family to share a meal and come together.
So, go home and cook something with your family tonight.
‘Peas’ be with you!
We’ll see you soon!
Download the Snap Pea and Mint Pasta Recipe: snap-pea-and-mint-pasta.pdf