Kids and healthy eating don't always go hand in hand. Between the fussy eaters and the constant snackers, mealtime can prove to be quite a challenge for most parents. In her blog, 5 O'clock Apron, blogger and Instagrammer Chef Claire Thomson reflects on ways to make mealtime and meal prep a little less stressful. "[It's important] that the kids exist in the kitchen with me, and that it's not some space that just makes food and washes up," she says. With the release of her latest cookbook, New Kitchen Basics, Claire aims to connect with an audience that, like her, are dealing with the hustle and bustle of daily life but still want to make good healthful meals. Here are some tips straight from the chef herself on how to achieve that.
"Make the kitchen the place to be"
Your kitchen should be fun, inviting and a place to chat. As you may recall your own mother or grandmother using these words when you were a child, try and stay away from saying "get out of the kitchen." Create an environment that is welcome to everyone, especially those little hands that want to help. "We have a bench along the wall, that I can pop eight children's bottoms on. If I can feed four, I can feed 10," says Thompson.
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"They’re allowed to not like some things, but they ought to try them"
Try making meals using healthy ingredients your family loves but be sure to encourage them to try new things as well. For Claire, both she and her husband are chefs so if the children don't like their cooking she simply states, "Come on, you've got two chefs cooking for you. How can you not like this?" It's pretty hard to argue with that one. For those of us who aren't chefs, be sure to encourage your kids to try new foods but have a backup in case they don't like it the first time around. Forcing them to eat foods they really don't like will only make them dislike them more.
"Don't be afraid to take your kids to restaurants with you"
We know how anxiety-inducing it is taking your children in public anywhere let alone to a nice place where they need to sit still, have manners and eat like civilized human beings. That being said, taking your kids out to eat on occasion is important because it teaches them what it means to eat outside the comfort of your own home. "Eating out... [is] about being civil, learning manners, being polite. Seeing the hospitality industry working hard is important."
"They will survive without McDonald's"
As for this, we know that sometimes life just gets too hectic to cook and McDonald's is a quick, cheap fix. Although Claire doesn't think children should have McDonald's, a once in a while trip to fill their bellies is better than letting them go hungry. So, don't feel guilty if you need to resort to some chicken nuggets once in a blue moon. Obviously, a home cooked meal is always the best option, but sometimes with parenting, you just have to do what you need to do to keep smiles on their faces and their tummies full.
"Sharing dishes all laid out on the table is a great way to eat as a family"
Buffet-style dinners are a great way to let everyone pick what they want to eat. The thing about kids is if they think it's their idea and their choice, they're more likely to eat the food you provide. Laying out some delicious, healthy options in the middle of the table with an empty plate in front of them is a sneaky way of letting them think they have the upper hand (win-win). "How we eat at home is quite a few dishes on the table, often ambient temperature in the summer, that we just graze at and share," says Claire.
For more about Chef Claire Thomson and her blog, click here.