Not only is getting your kids into the kitchen useful to you—aka who doesn’t appreciate a good sous chef?—it’s also good for their health, says a new study published in April in the Journal of Education and Behavior.
In fact, the study claims adolescents’ culinary skills today are a strong predictor of their future nutritional well-being, and ultimately their health. This is at least a bit concerning, as the research also shows a decline in home cooking skills, and a decline in cooking being taught in schools.
It makes complete sense, though: Someone who is confident and efficient in the kitchen is less likely to reach for fast food or pre-made meals pumped with all sort of processed ingredients.
To find their results, researchers collected data over the course of 10 years to look at the impact of a person’s perceived cooking skills on their nutritional well-being as time passed. Participants reported on their cooking skills and habits in 2002 when they were all between the ages of 18 and 23. Then in 2015, the were reassessed.
In short, the results showed those who are more confident in the kitchen cook more frequently, cook more frequently with vegetables, eat with their families more often, and eat fast food less frequently.
So how do you convince your kids to become interested in cooking?
Here are some tips:
Do you have competitive kids or teens? Turn cooking into a competition. Who can make the best meal with non-processed foods? Run a “Chopped Kitchen” or “Guy’s Grocer Games” at home and watch how into it they get!
Vegetables always taste better when you grow them yourself. Get your kids gardening, even if it’s just a pot of kale and carrots on your porch. They’ll be way more likely to want to both eat and cook vegetables into something healthy for dinner.
Refurbish their favorite meal
Let’s say your kid’s favorite meal is pizza. Get them involved and make a healthier version of pizza, so they both learn how to cook and eat healthy all at once. Or if it’s a sweet tooth your kids have, challenge them to a baking competition: Find a way to make cookies without gluten and sugar. Or a healthy banana bread!
(For the record, you can make a great banana bread from just crushed walnuts (3 cups), coconut oil (1/2 cup), 2 eggs, 3 smashed bananas, almond butter (1 cup) and vanilla (1 Tbsp). Mix together, put in a pan and bake 375 F for 45 minutes to an hour).
Take them shopping
Take your kids to get groceries with you, and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try with dinner. The sense of power in selecting their own food will get them trying all kinds of new foods.