Written by Candice Alvey
With more and more emphasis being placed on a whole-foods diet and healthy lifestyle, it’s easy for parents to feel overwhelmed which often resorts to relying on convenience foods. In our home, we focused on creating good food habits that are based on local, seasonal and ethically sourced foods. In my experience interacting with food (think growing veggies and cooking) is the best way to get Lexi, my seven-year old daughter to enjoy eating healthy food.
The benefits are incredible:
Cooking is an important life skill.
A lack of confidence in the kitchen makes it a lot more difficult to prepare healthy meals for your family. If children can gain this confidence early on, they are more likely to be experimental in the kitchen.
Cooking gives children an appreciation for healthy food.
Cooking together is the perfect time to talk to your children about food and to teach children the difference between real food and processed food. As you’re cooking you can discuss the benefits of whole foods. I have found that this has helped stop any picky eating that started. Kids are always more willing to try something that they have prepared themselves!
Cooking is a great tool in the fight against childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity in South Africa (and worldwide) is increasing at an exponential rate. Teaching our children to cook is a great opportunity to teach them techniques for healthy food preparation. Rather than teaching them to deep fry potato chips we can teach them to oven bake sweet potato.
There are also educational benefits such as math skills, reading skills and fine motor control.
Where to Start?
A few years ago, I got Lexi a recipe book of her own so that she could start building up a collection of recipes as she slowly mastered each one. She couldn’t wait to start! But I did noticed that as we moved onto slightly more complicated recipes her excitement and confidence began to wane. So, to get your kids excited about cooking (and keep up the enthusiasm) try following these tips:
- Invest in a couple of kid-friendly kitchen tools. Lexi loves wearing her apron and using her special knife.
- If you’ve got a hesitant or picky eater let them help you choose the recipes. Shopping together for ingredients also makes them more likely to try out new things.
- Let them taste as you go. Even if it means you go through a lot of spoons when you cook! Lexi likes to taste and then we discuss the different flavours. What works, what doesn’t work and her preferences.
- Let your child be creative! If they want to deviate from the recipe trust them and go with it. Not every recipe will turn out well, and this is a great way for them to learn what works and what doesn’t.
- Start simple! Firstly, assess your child’s physical abilities and skills then let that guide you in choosing recipes. I’ve found that pasta dishes are the best place to start.
Why We Choose Happy Earth People
One of Lexi’s favourite things to prepare, and eat, is pasta. She adores the Happy Earth People range of pulse-based products.
Lexi and I have often discussed the importance of eating locally grown and produced food, as well as sustainable farming. I truly believe that food grown, prepared, and cooked with love and care is better for us, and it’s a philosophy that we embrace in our home.
Happy Earth People is a company that shares those values. They believe in a food and farming system that nourishes both people and the planet to health and happiness. Their products are eco-friendly (all their packaging is zero-waste and biodegradable) and gluten-free.
Their products are available from various retailers and on their website Happy Earth People. If, like us, you love their products and you want to buy in bulk they are available in 1kg bags on their website. They also offer penne that is not yet available in stores.
Lexi’s Pasta Salad Recipe:
I challenged Lexi to create her own recipe for the first time by posing the question, “if you could add anything to your Happy Earth People pasta, what would it be?” The list I got back was long and interesting! It set us on a weeklong course of trying, and trying again, until Lexi came up with a combination that she loves. She could hardly wait to share it with you!
- 1 250g box Happy Earth People pasta of your choice
- 1 punnet button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cucumber, sliced
- 2 ears sweet corn, boiled and sliced off the cob
- 1/2 avocado, cut into cubes
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh coriander (optional)
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook your Happy Earth People pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.
- Heat the butter/ olive oil in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Then set aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Add the mushrooms, cucumber, sweet corn, avocado, mint and coriander (optional) to the pasta. Toss well.
- Just before serving pour over the dressing and toss again.
- For the dressing: Mix the avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Whisk well.
- Allow to stand while you make the salad. This gives it time for the flavours to develop and infuse into the oil and vinegar.
- If your child is not a fan of ginger, strain the dressing through a sieve to remove the grated ginger.
About the author:
Hi, I’m Candice,
Since becoming a mother I have become very aware of what I feed my daughter and what I put into my own body. Kids learn from what their parents do, not what they say, right?
It all started with a bag of carrot seeds. Lexi is not one of those kids who nags for things when we go shopping. Yet on this particular day she was pretty set on buying carrot seeds. I couldn’t really say no to the sweet little girl that was looking up at me and thus started a passion project for growing our own food.
Now we grow food and share our recipes, to hopefully inspire other families to try new and healthy foods together.