Richard Bogren, Reames, Elizabeth S. | 12/8/2009 8:58:42 PM
Children enjoy being holiday helpers. This holiday season, let your children share in planning and preparing food for these special occasions, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames
“Children enjoy helping to plan holiday meals and having some of their favorite foods included,” Reames says. “Preparing their own food helps children develop an awareness of the importance of meals and snacks and promotes the development of a healthy self-concept. Using their hands to prepare foods also helps develop muscle coordination.”
She says the holidays are a great time to teach youngsters about the importance of food safety to prevent food-borne illness.
Food safety practices are important for all age groups, Reames says, offering the following tips to help keep foods safe:
– Wash hands in hot, soapy water before beginning food preparation.
– Make sure work surfaces and utensils are clean before preparing food.
– Wash hands, utensils and counter surfaces after handling raw meat, poultry or fish and before preparing other food.
– Make sure perishable foods don’t stay at room temperature for more than 2 hours, including preparation time.
Food preparation activities should be tailored to each child because no two children are the same developmentally, Reames says. Children have to be shown and taught how to do these activities. Each child has his or her own pace for learning, so give it time and the skills will come.
The nutritionist offers some specific food preparation ideas for different age groups:
2- to 3-year-olds
– Wash fruits and vegetables.
– Peel bananas.
– Slice soft foods such as bananas and cooked potatoes or carrots.
– Stir mixes or batters.
– Pour small amounts of liquids into a bowl.
– Mix with a rotary eggbeater.
– Measure items such as raisins, chocolate chips or nuts.
– Bring ingredients from one place to another.
4- to 5-year-olds
– Open packages.
– Grease pans.
– Peel carrots.
– Mash banana with a fork.
– Help set the table.
– Cut cookies with cookie cutter.
– Tear lettuce for salad.
– Place toppings on pizza or snacks.
6- to 8-year-olds
– Set the table (with supervision).
– Help plan meals and snacks.
– Find ingredients in cabinet or refrigerator.
– Shred cheese.
– Garnish foods.
– Measure ingredients.
– Roll and shape cookies.
– Set food on the table.
Older children can help to plan and prepare entire meals or snacks with supervision.
“Helping to plan and prepare meals is fun for children and helps them develop an appreciation of good nutrition,” Reames says.
For additional information about eating healthfully, contact the LSU AgCenter office in your parish.