The Good Food FactoryFri 16 Mar 2012
Story by The Food Revolution Team
Chef Amanda Curry has a unique way to get kids interested in, and involved in cooking. She makes jokes, gets silly, makes the kids laugh and allows them to really get hands on. How did it all begin? When she realised that she needed to do something with healthy food that everyone else does with junk food… make it fun!
Never turning down an opportunity to get involved and in the kitchen with kids –even if she had never done it before, Amanda is now director of The Center for a Healthy Lifestyle, leading the healthy snack bar revolution to 6 branches of the Boys & Girls Clubs, co-creating future gardening & cooking camps where the kids eat what they plant and hosting & catering board events and staff events to make sure even the staff eats good food!
And that’s not all… Amanda teaches healthy cooking classes - 5 week curriculums featuring ‘Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner & Party’, hosts school cooking field trips (during one recently she taught 500 kids how to make healthy baked quesadillas with spreadable pinto beans and mango salsa!), oversees & develops ‘Healthy Mexican’- a free healthy cooking curriculum to teach local Hispanic children how to make healthy Mexican food, and regularly attends engagement as a key speaker in schools and libraries.
Here are some of Amanda’s top tips for getting kids in the kitchen & cooking
1. Give Them A Choice, And They Will Respond.
Everyone loves to have a say in what they do, especially when it comes to cooking and eating. If you involve your children in the shopping and cooking process, by the time the kale hits their plate they're excited to see it! And, they'll probably eat it.
2. Your Kids, Your Sous Chef.
You know all those things you are bored with doing? Like dicing, grating, chopping? Guess what? Kids love doing those things! Let them do all the veggie prep while you handle the big stuff.
3. Empower The kids.
They can do so much more in the kitchen than you'd think they can do. Start them out with butter knives, work up to bigger knives. When they know there is a hierarchy that they can gain entrance to, they'll work hard to get to the next level.
4. Cooking Time is Family Time.
Everyone struggles with quality family time, so don't cook alone! There is no better time to talk and interact than over a kitchen counter, making dinner. It's lovely, it's quiet, it's when you really get to know each other and those reports about school that you are always begging for come magically spilling out. Take advantage of the time it takes to cook a meal, because dinner sometimes only lasts 10 minutes.
5. Establish your own menus and name them!
I'm a sucker for a fun name, and guess what? Kids are too! Create a signature dish and give it a signature name. "Football Hero Nachos" "Surf Muffins" "Crazy-Kid- Super-Burrito" The sillier and more memorable it is, the more we want to eat it.
6. Package Your foods In fun Ways!
Don't just put stuff in a ziploc or paper bag, put a sticker on it. Put the name on it. Make it fun, make it memorable. Kids are so used to packaged goods that they'll take to this right away. Because a homemade granola bar in a baggie is a little weird at school, but a homemade granola bar in a crayon-colored wrapper named "Superpower Snackbar"...is a hit.
7. Try New Foods As Sides Or Just For Fun, At First.
Remember, growing bodies are hungry bodies. Think of how hungry you are after a really long workout, or a super long day at work. When you are starving, you don't usually want to try something new, you want to eat something that you KNOW you like and you KNOW fills you up. Kids are the same way! So try new foods at noncritical times, or as additions to meals. That way? No pressure and no stress. Plus, kids are more likely to be open to experience and thus, the food itself.
8. Don't Reinforce "The Vegetable Debacle".
Stop talking about how your child doesn't like veggies, especially in front of them! This "I don't like anything green" is a temporary situation, not a lifelong habit that we need to reinforce. Tell your kids "Tastebuds change! You'll like this one day!" Always approach it from the positive and be encouraging. Because someday, your child will be roasting up brussel sprouts. It happens. Trust me.
9. Cook In Groups Or Enroll In Healthy Cooking Classes.
Something magical happens when kids make stuff together, they eat it together! Just yesterday I watched a group of 5 year olds eat a whole grain breakfast burrito with egg, cheddar cheese, tomato, avocado, swiss chard & kale. They gobbled it up. Magic!
10. Make it Fun.
Channel your inner sugary cereal mascot and talk that way about healthy food: ‘I'm CUCKOO for QUINOA!’, ‘Kale Chips are for Kids.’ Do a dance, make a fool of yourself singing and get your kids laughing when you hand them a plate of steaming veggies. Remember, the junk food folks are doing it and succeeding, so why not you?
You can also see Amanda in the Good Food Factory show, which she writes, produces, stars in and edits. The show is currently on air every single day in San Diego.
Find out more about Amanda and the programs she runs at The Good Food Factory and Center For A Healthy Lifestyle.
The Food Revolution Team
Images: credit to Lisa Dearen
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