As a working mom of two, Matthieu, an almost four-year-old boy and Marion, a four-month-old little girl, dinner is a crucial time in our day. It is the moment that we have a little bit of time to talk about our day (when our chatty boy gives us a few minutes without 10,000 questions), relax, enjoy food, and be together. The last thing we want is to fight with our son for him to eat his food.
Early on, dinner preparation was a bit tricky: I had to keep Matthieu entertained, prepare a somewhat healthy meal that would suit everyone, keep an eye on his activities. And how to best keep a child out of boredom/trouble? Keep him busy. So I decided to get him involved in the meal preparation. Matthieu, at two years old, was pushing the cut veggies in the pan, mixing whatever cold mix on the countertop, stirring sour cream in pasta and pouring cake dough in the pan. Now that he is about to turn four, he cuts vegetables (of course, under close surveillance), holds pot handles to stir what's cooking (again, surveillance always required), makes suggestions for food additions, and many other "chef" tasks he wants to do.
The beauty of Matthieu helping prepare our meal is that he is way more likely to eat what he made. Hello creamed spinach, leeks, and other veggies. We also make better food choices, because just throwing pasta in a pot or defrosting a pizza is not an option.
Now that I also have my four-month-old baby girl Marion, I am still making the best of meal preps with my son, and many times, it involves wearing her in the carrier (caution is obviously required when close to the stove). So she is, at a very early age, already participating in the cooking process!
Between picky eaters and the rampant obesity issue in our modern societies, nutrition is crucial. Worldwide, 42 million infants and young children are obese. The projection is that in the year 2025, that number will be 70 million. In Canada, in the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in unhealthy weights among children. Obesity in childhood doesn't go away as they grow, and is associated with a range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
Cooking with your child is a win/win situation for everyone and an excellent strategy for a picky eater! It is the perfect time to have a discussion about the food items you are preparing (the benefits, where it comes from, how it grows) to help your child become more conscious of what goes into his or her body. Your child will eat better and you will too! And your dinner will be a time where you can both share pride in what's on your plate.