The average American kid will be bombarded by almost 4,000 food commercials a year, 95 percent of which promote unhealthy foods. Give a kid a choice between a carrot and a Cheeto and you know which will win. No one needs a study, though there are plenty, to show the macro outcome of this bombardment. We're fatter and sicker than ever.
The most powerful antidote to this problem is to get our kids into the kitchen. Michael Pollan has argues, "We find time for the things we value." What could be more valuable than the health of our kids?
There are nearly 50 million kids in the U.S. between the ages of three and 15. The best time to teach lifelong healthy eating habits is during their formative years. Kids who participate in cooking their own food are far more likely to eat well. I've seen this transformation first hand.
My children, both under the age of 10, once ate from a meal-wheel dominated by pasta and pizza. Then we began a game. Who could eat the most colors in one meal? Next, we upped the stakes. Who could prepare a meal made solely of foods from the farmers' market? This challenge led us to the kitchen, to cook together. Steamed artichokes with lemon butter, salsas and salads with mango, jicama and rainbow carrots and asparagus frittata — to name a few. Now, every week my kids pick a new food to try and together, we cook. So long as I make it a game, they're game.
Naysayers are standing at the ready with arrows, and I know their arguments well because I used to make them: it takes too much time to cook with kids. Parents are too busy.
That's true. But consider this: time "wasted" today is quality time gained later. As kids become more proficient in the kitchen, parents become more relaxed, the children will be able to take on more with less supervision. Instead of dinner being a scramble, you'll find that cooking together is an unmatched opportunity for family time. The family time we need to fix this problem.
With a Perspective, I'm Jennifer Tyler Lee.
Jennifer Tyler Lee is a Bay Area mother of two and healthy eating advocate.