Books can cook up ways to get kids to eat better foods

Well, it’s the beginning of another new year and in spite of a less-than-promising track record, many of us have made resolutions to change the way we live and to make those changes last beyond the first week of January. Without a doubt, the most common resolution has to do with our diet. Whether you are trying to lose those few extra pounds or just trying to include more vegetables and fruits in our daily diet, getting your whole family on board is essential to your success and to your family’s good health. If your kids are anything like mine, this is no easy task.

In the best selling cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious,” written by Jessica Seinfeld (wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld), you have your pick of recipes in which you “sneak” pureed vegetables into kid-friendly foods including chicken nuggets, brownies, mac and cheese and blueberry cupcakes, to mention just a few. The book is entertaining and does have some helpful hints, but in many ways, it misses the mark. First, unless you have lots of time to buy, steam and puree vegetables before you even get to the actual recipes, this book isn’t for you. Second, picky eaters are highly suspicious by nature and if the food looks “different” they may be unwilling to try it and in this case, the food does look different. Finally, instead of tricking your kids into eating vegetables, wouldn’t you rather inspire them to develop a taste for healthy foods and to become a little more adventurous in their food choices? If so, getting your kids involved in the buying and food preparation process is a huge step in the right direction.

Without fail, I have found that picky kids will be much more inclined to eat new things when they have chosen or helped prepare the food they’re eating. Among the host of healthy cookbooks on the market geared to young chefs and picky palates, one of the best is “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up” by Mollie Katzen and Ann Henderson. This fun and unique cookbook (one of four kids’ cookbooks authored by Katzen) goes a step beyond the traditional cookbook layout. First, the recipe is written traditionally for the adults to go through. Next, the recipe is written in a pictorial version for the kids to use. The authors also give great tips on how to make food preparation more fun and safe for children. Each recipe is presented in a colorful way, with ideas on how to inspire young and picky eaters to try new foods.

If you’d like a more literary approach to cooking with your kids, “Cook-A-Doodle-Doo!” by sisters Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel takes the classic tale of The Little Red Hen and turns it into a deliciously fun lesson on cooking and teamwork. It tells the story of a hungry rooster who, tired of eating the same chicken feed day after day, digs out his great grandmother’s cookbook (“The Joy of Cooking Alone” by L. R. Hen) and with three friends, sets out to make her magnificent strawberry shortcake. Peppered through the story are notes in the margins with cooking tips that offer kid-friendly explanations of ingredients, measurements and techniques mentioned in the text. (There are even some great tips to help keep the kitchen mess a little more manageable.) Kids will love the colorful illustrations and the fun, fast-paced story of teamwork at its best will leave them anxious to try out the recipe for “Great-Granny’s Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake” in the back of the book (ages 4 and older).

So, bite your tongue the next time you’re tempted to tell your kids to stop playing with their food and foster what could be a lifelong passion for healthy cooking and eating.

Rhonda Miller is a library secretary at Victor Falls Elementary School in the Sumner School District.

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