What does it take to get kids and teens to eat better?

Cooking together may be the trick

Trying something new and liking it! What does it take to make that happen and to get kids to eat healthfully?

Just last evening I made acorn squash soup, a seasonal treat that my kids have not had before. I tried involving them in scooping out the softened, baked flesh, but they were too busy chasing each other around the house.

Minutes later, I had set the table and filled their bowls with the delightful creamy concoction. I was so excited for my girls, ages 5 and 2, to give this new recipe a try. With a spoonful approaching her mouth, Olivia abruptly reverses course. Setting her spoon back in the bowl, she proclaims, “I don’t like it.”

“But you didn’t even try it!” I say, heartbroken. Just then, baby sister decides that her distaste for squash soup matches her sister’s. Of course.

I can hear the chorus of so many parents familiar with the pleading slogan, “Take just one bite.” It usually doesn’t work, yet we say it over and over in hopes that this time they will listen and discover that in fact it may be very tasty!

Family time

One method that can give better results is involving kids in the cooking process.

Health tips for the family

Visit Kohl’s Cares High Five Program for tips on what parents can do to keep their children healthy, safe and out of the hospital.

Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness recently offered a workshop to help families explore new recipes and discover healthy food options. Sisters Mya and Kenzie, along with their mom and dad, attended and prepared several quick and healthy meals. Most important, they tasted all of their creations!

On the menu were veggie quesadillas, homemade hummus, fruit smoothies and spiral zucchini pasta. When it came to tasting new vegetables, Mya, a high school student, was hesitant at first. She loves fruit, but her taste for vegetables was limited to corn and mushrooms. On the other hand, younger sister Kenzie is a veggie lover but was not enthusiastic about fruits. In the time we spent together, both sisters prepared meals using a variety of fruits and vegetables — Mya even added spinach to her quesadilla and ate it!

Why does this work? The kids are invested in the process. When you create something on your own, you are more likely to try it and like it. So even though hummus may not have made it on the favorite foods list, we tried it, and we talked about the nutritional content and different ways to prepare it.

Even Sara, Mya and Kenzie’s mom, was able to pick up a few tips and tricks during the cooking class.

“Up until my early 20s, I never had weight issues. As I got older, my metabolism changed, and I developed hypothyroidism and eventually had to have my thyroid removed,” Sara said. “All of those things have made it easy to gain weight, and hard to lose. After participating in the cooking class, I decided it was time to get focused and back on track. I don’t want to be left sitting on the sidelines while my children enjoy life!”

Sara started planning meals and lost 5 pounds in her first week. She says that gives her motivation to keep going!

Everyone got something out of the workshop, which was made possible through a grant from Kohl’s. I learned that next time I make acorn squash soup, my girls will need to have their aprons on, because there’s a chance they might just like it the second time around.