Advice from Dietitians: Making Dinnertime Fun and Nutritious for Kids

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Make your children feel like they are part of the great food choices the whole family makes. Renown’s registered dietitians offer some fun ways to involve kids in the grocery shopping and in daily food prep.

Editor’s Note: Put your best fork forward! March is National Nutrition Month, and every week this month, BestMedicine will feature the advice of Renown’s registered dietitians for good nutrition and how it ties to good health.

For several registered dietitians at Renown Health, their interest in food and nutrition started at a very early age.

“My dad was a cook and he was really creative when we were growing up,” recalls Alexa Bowman, one of Renown’s registered dietitians. “He would just throw things together in the pan and make these really interesting decisions while cooking, and I would sit on a stool and watch and ask him questions. He’d give me a taste of what he was making as we went along and really involved me in things. I also was able to go into our garden and see what we were growing and eating.”

 

It’s a similar story for Laura Dehm, another registered dietitian with Renown. “My mom was totally at the counter with me helping me chop the veggies,” says Dehm. “And she called me her little bunny rabbit, which I loved! So, I wanted to keep being that little bunny rabbit eating all my vegetables . . . and now look at me.”

Indeed, Dehm’s career is helping patients and families with nutrition and its link to health. All of the registered dietitians we spoke to agreed that it’s a good idea to involve kids in cooking every step of the way, from shopping to serving.

From Store to Table

Dehm suggests that children get involved in the shopping process. “When you take your kid to the grocery store, you can say, ‘Let’s pick out a new vegetable or fruit,’ one they haven’t tried yet. And then you can use that in a recipe to help get your kids excited about it. If they get to pick the vegetable, they maybe more apt to try it when it comes to dinnertime.”

Also, with cooking tasks such as measuring, they’re boosting their math skills.

The dietitians agreed that it’s crucial to find meals to cook with your kids that balance good nutrition with fun. But, if the kids are picky and just have certain types of foods they like, you can still add in something better for them.

“If they’ll only eat something like mac and cheese, you can still make it homemade and make it healthier,” says Nanette McCall, a registered dietitian with Renown. “Even something like grilled cheese, you can add a slice of tomato.”

Being a Role Model for Nutrition 

One thing to watch out for, they say, is misrepresenting food. For instance, saying that carrot sticks are fries or that cauliflower is mashed potatoes if that’s not the case.

“I think there is a balance there, though,” Dehm says. “If you put applesauce or puree something sweet that’s a fruit into the cookie batter, I think that’s totally fine. I don’t think you have to disclose every ingredient to a child, because they don’t care, but if they do get excited by something you should encourage it.”

And parents can lead by example. 

“If they see you eating something healthy, then they may want to try it,” says Nicole Bustamante, manager of clinical nutrition at Renown. 

McCall has some simple advice for the parents of younger kids. “You should introduce everything nutritious young and then not be judgmental about it,” she says. “Don’t say, ‘Ewww, Daddy hates Brussels sprouts.’ Try to be neutral about it.”

To get an assessment on your specific dietary needs, schedule a consultation with one of Renown’s registered dietitians at Renown Health Improvement Programs. Call 775-982-5073.

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