Monday, January 30, 2012

Get Kids Eating Healthy and Win! #BensBeginners

Do your kids often balk at eating your home-cooked meals? Do they prefer fast food and "prefab" foods? Is your life so busy that eating a healthy meal sometimes seems impossible? This year Uncle Ben’s Rice is encouraging families to get in the kitchen to cook and eat together - a very important step in helping kids learn healthy lifestyles!

Did you know, studies show that planning a rice-based meal leads to a healthier meal overall? And, don't keep the planning to yourself: I've read that the best way to get kids to eat healthy is to INVOLVE them in the process! Here's my top tips for getting your kids into the kitchen and eating healthy meals!

First, let them plan the weekly menu. Have each child suggest a meal for the week, or a side dish, and work to get that meal into your rotation. Or perhaps have them write down their favorite home cooked meals, put them on slips of paper, and draw a mystery dinner once a week (you can draw in advance but not tell them until the big night!). Being able to choose their meals will certainly make them more interested in eating the meal!

Also, take them grocery shopping with you - and put them to work. Having kids find and select produce and other fresh foods in the store is not only a learning experience (you can teach them about good prices, how to determine if the foods are ripe, and even younger kids can just be learning vocabulary). When kids get involved in selecting the ingredients, their interest will grow.

Of course, you'll want them involved in the cooking process as well. Take dinner prep as a valuable time to turn off the TV/video games and spend some family time together. Older kids can chop veggies or perhaps do a little supervised stovetop cooking (perhaps steaming rice?). Younger kids can measure ingredients, arrange raw veggies on a tray, and do other tasks appropriate for their age level. Not only will this give your children valuable life experience, but what cook DOESN'T want to eat something they helped to prepare? (Oh side benefit, your prep time will go way down once your kids know how to perform certain simple cooking tasks!).

Try the No-Thank You Portion rule... we all have foods that frankly we just cannot stomach. I cannot eat mushrooms if they are not prepared right. And as an adult I exercise that right. Give kids the chance to decline one item at the meal IF they take one bite to prove they really gave it a try. The "No-Thank You" bite shows a good faith effort on their part to try the item, and perhaps they'll discover it's not so bad. If not, at least they had a mouthful... sometimes kids just need repeated exposure to a food item to grow to enjoy it (remember their little palettes are far more sensitive than ours and need time to develop!).

Maybe you don't need fancy tricks to get your kids to eat healthier, but these suggestions are good for anyone, not just picky eaters! What do you do to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Share your ideas!

And now... your cooking could win you big prizes! Uncle Ben’s has launched an exciting national contest called Ben’s Beginners! By entering the contest, you could win $20,000, along with a $50,000 grant towards a cafeteria makeover for your child’s school. In addition, you will have a chance to appear on The Rachael Ray show! Uncle Ben’s is calling for parents with children ages 5-12 to submit a 2-3 minute video of you cooking a rice-based dish with your children. For more info on the contest, please check out Ben’s Beginners on Facebook!

DISCLOSURE: I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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