Biggest Mistake You’re Making at Mealtime

'Kids should get in the kitchen with their parents as soon as they can complete simple tasks'

Too many of us aren’t cooking complete meals at home these days — never mind sitting down with the entire family to eat.

Not only can all of the running around we’re doing take a toll on our family’s weight, we might also be setting up our children for a lifetime of unhealthy habits.

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“Kids should get in the kitchen as soon as they are able to accomplish other simple tasks around the house, like putting their toys away,” said Alex Haschen, a personal trainer from Baltimore, Maryland.

“We have gotten away from families cooking together because we live in a society that is always running at 100 mph. Dinner needs to be fast so that we can get to practice — and then we need to rush home to watch our TV show and then off to bed! Dinner does not need to be some Better Homes and Gardens cover. It just needs to have some thought and effort put into it,” Haschen told LifeZette.

“The kitchen is a place usually reserved for Mom and Dad, so to ask for kids’ help could mean a lot to them.”

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He’s taken a special interest in the topic, as the food he’s seeing parents feed their kids directly affects their behavior, performance, energy, and cognitive function.

“Another reason parents might be hesitant to get in the kitchen is because they themselves are not a ‘good cook.’ I would say that is even more of a reason to get in there,” said Haschen.

While every child is different from a behavioral standpoint, here are three reasons he encourages parents to spend time with kids in the kitchen:

1.) It’s a big deal.
The kitchen is a place usually reserved for Mom and Dad, so to ask for kids’ help can mean the world to them. The earlier this is done, the more exciting it will be; for example, a four-year-old might love the opportunity, while a nine-year-old would rather do something else. Children can also gain increased confidence — as well as a healthy respect for dangerous items like knives, scissors, and slicers.

Related: ‘My Kids Hate the Great Outdoors’

2.) It’s a learning experience.
The kitchen is a great place to talk about food and how healthy foods nourish our bodies. Explaining to kids why certain foods are better than others is valuable — and parents can start to establish a positive connection between children and veggies, fruits, and proteins. Children can also improve their basic math skills through adding or subtracting items and using measuring devices. Their reading and comprehension skills also improve through deciphering recipes.

3.) Cooking together establishes good habits for a lifetime.
If positive associations with cooking and food are made at an early age, there is a better chance our kids will grow up more than willing to try new foods, especially if they are deemed “healthy.”

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It’s also a fantastic way for families to bond. “The parents I do see involving their kids in the kitchen are having amazing results,” said Haschen. “Kids are empowered and excited to make their own condiments or recreate a ‘fast-food’ favorite. In addition, the extra parent/child time is always healthy. Many of the skills listed above are not as prevalent in kids today because they lead more sedentary lives. The influx of ‘screen time’ has limited the exposure kids get to sharpen these seemingly basic tasks.”

Cooking represents a chance for kids to grow and be challenged by solvable problems. The tasks may seem simple, but the impact can be great.

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