There’s little doubt that our diet is responsible for a variety of health problems. Kids and families eat very differently than they did a generation ago. Processed foods are part of life. What if it’s not so much the kind of food we eat but how the food is prepared that gives rise to many of the health problems? Picky kids eat far more pre-packaged, processed foods than ever. Science is beginning to show us this is a real problem for nutrition. Kids who eat lots of processed foods are often anemic, and they frequently struggle with constipation. What if all the processed foods are at the root of our changing health balance?
I hear so often from parents that “I don’t know how to cook,” or “I don’t have time to cook.” There’s been a whole generation of people who haven’t been taught to prepare something that hasn’t been ‘pre-pared/pre-packaged’ for them by the commercial food industry. They think of cooking as really hard and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be that way for busy families.
Family dinners can be a team sport. It’s not fair that all the responsibility for family meals is dumped on one person (usually Mom) when dividing the tasks is easier than you’d think. The first step is to want to have more home-cooked meals. I’m finding inspiration and incentive in a wonderful online course called Stanford Introduction to Food and Health taught by Maya Adam, MD. It’s free through Coursera.com if you don’t want to earn formal college credit, and you can learn more HERE. Dr. Adams is also one of the physicians behind the Just Cook For Kids movement. HERE she cooks real oatmeal making it look every bit as easy as opening a pre-packaged instant oatmeal packet.
I’m convinced anyone can learn to roast a chicken, and what kid wouldn’t consider chicken tacos an acceptable meal? The #JustCookForKids project involves children and more than proves cooking doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be a way to connect as a family when every member has an age appropriate job. Even two and three year-olds can place a spoon on the table beside the plate! Open, shell and sort peas together and preschoolers develop amazing fine motor skills.
As a pediatrician, I’m considering sponsoring a series of get-togethers to talk about obstacles to cooking real food and brainstorm small step changes that families can make to move closer to having more real food for their families. If you’re interested, reply below in the comments field.
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Gayle Schrier Smith, MD