One of the most important things we can do for our health is to cook at home. Involve your kids, and you’ll be setting them up for a healthier lifestyle. It’s never to early to include your kid in the kitchen to learn to bake sweet desserts and cook delicious dinners. I have been cooking and baking with my niece and nephew from at least 18-months on. They love the independence of being able to contribute to making their food.
The good thing is, letting them make a mess is well worth it. Getting kids hands-on in the kitchen may lead to healthier eating behaviors, more positive feelings, and tendency to try new foods, several studies suggest. Cooking and baking with kids teaches them real-life skills, something they will need when they eventually leave the house. Besides this, involvement in cooking may improve a child’s diet quality. In one study, children who were involved in home cooking, aged 10-11 years old, on average consumed an extra serving for fruits and vegetables per day compared to their peers who were not involved (Li Chu et al, 2013). Another study, involving kids 6 to 10 years old, reported more positive emotions and feeling of control in children who participated in cooking their own meals (van der Horst et al, 2014).
Children who are involved in food preparation may be more likely to try new food, a parents and caregivers dream. In a Spanish study by Allirot et al, 2015, children aged 7 to 11 years old were randomly divided into two groups, those who got to participate in cooking and those who did not. Kids in the cook group got to prepare unfamiliar foods such as apple and beet juice, zucchini and egg sandwiches, and spinach cookies. When the children got to chose between these unfamiliar foods versus those more familiar (i.e. orange juice, potato and egg sandwich, and chocolate chip cookies), the kids who cooked the unfamiliar foods were more likely to eat them. They were also more likely to enjoy them.
Feeding children can be challenging, but involving them in the process from a young age may lead to healthier eaters and eaters more likely to try new foods. When I bake or cook with them I ensure the foods are appropriate, fairly new, and safe for them to be involved. When they are mixing and pouring in the ingredients, I see the sense of pride in their little faces when they do.
Baking seems to be easiest for my toddler niece and nephew both aged almost 3 years. On Monday, my niece Lenox and I made these apple muffins. Her brother Zander, 3 months, was quietly observing on the scene. We used apples from Sunday’s apple picking venture with my nephew Nolan and his Mia, 3 months (yes we are a close family). While we were baking, I taught her about some the ingredients and why we were using them. My favorite was when I told her we were using flax seeds to make a flax egg, she seemed quite confused.
We made up the recipe “together”, so they rightfully deserve the name “Lenox’s Apple and Pumpkin Spice Muffins”. She did a lot of work, like mixing and spilling the flour (this step is not included in the final recipe so I hope it works out for you). This recipe has a lot of love in it, from the hand-picked apples from Nolan to the hand mixing by Lenox.
- 1 1/2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat)
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp pumpkin spice blend
- 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal + 3 tablespoons water)
- 1 egg (or 1 additional flax egg)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup soy milk
- 2 cups chopped apples
- 1/2 cup raisins
Yield ~ 16 muffins
- Set oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with liners. In a large mixing bowl combine spelt, almond flour, baking soda, and pumpkin spice.
- In a small mixing bowl combine flax meal and water and let it sit for about 3-5 minutes. Then add egg, soy milk, sugar, and vanilla and whisk together.
- Add apples and raisins to the dry ingredients and mix together before adding the wet ingredients. Fold together the wet and the dry mixtures just until completely incorporated, do not over mix.
- Using an ice cream scoop, fill muffin tins leaving about 1/4 inch space at the top of each muffin tin.
- Place in center rack in the oven and bake for ~25 minutes.
- Remove from muffin tin and allow to cool.
- Eat on its own or serve over
Berge, Jerica M., et al. “Family Food Preparation and Its Effects on Adolescent Dietary Quality and Eating Patterns.” Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 59, no. 5, 2016, pp. 530–536., doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.06.007.