The eating habits you teach your kids are likely to be the habits they stick to as adults.

By teaching them healthy eating habits and acting as a role model you can have a big impact on how healthy they are later in life.

Mealtime habits

Mealtimes provide a great opportunity to role model healthy eating behaviours. Children are more likely to try and like foods they see their parents or carers eating.

Here are some easy tips to make the most of mealtimes:

  1. Eat together as a family when you can.
    It can seem hard to get the family together for a meal at the table. Try and plan for one meal this week to eat together as a family at the table, without any TV. This will give you a chance to try out a new healthy recipe and establish a new eating routine.

  2. Try a new side with an old favourite.
    Getting more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet can be as simple as adding a healthy side to a family favourite or an extra piece of fruit to the kids’ lunch box. Experiment and see which new foods they like and you might find yourself establishing new healthy favourites. Try out our 10 healthy alternatives to popular meals and lunch box ideas.

  3. Act as a role model. 
    When our kids see us snacking outside of mealtimes or eating less healthy food, they want to do the same. Try get into the habit of regular mealtimes. When you do snack, try and stick to healthy snacks like plain popcorn, fruit or wholegrain crisps with healthy dips. Here are some small steps to help you get started as a family.

  4. Get the family involved. 
    Your family be may be more interested in food they have chosen or been involved in preparing. Offer different options for healthy meals and let the family choose, or get them cooking with you. Use our tips below to teach the whole family skills in the kitchen. 

Skills in the kitchen

Knife and board

Getting your family involved in the kitchen is a great way to teach them the skills they need for healthy eating habits.

Involve your kids as much as possible so they can learn. In addition to cooking, they can help with planning, shopping and cleaning up, so they know what food they should be buying and how to keep it hygienic.

Here are some hygiene and safety lessons you can teach your kids:

Be a clean cook

  1. Wash your hands before you start to cook.
  2. Wear an apron or play clothes.
  3. Wash all fruits or vegetables in your recipe before you start to prepare them.
  4. Don't lick your fingers or any kitchen utensils until you have finished cooking.
  5. Always wash and put away your utensils and clean up the cooking area when you have finished.

Be a careful cook

  1. Adjust any oven shelves before you turn on the oven.
  2. Turn the oven to the correct temperature before you start to cook.
  3. Use oven mitts to remove hot dishes from the oven or stove.
  4. Remember to turn off the oven or stove when you have finished cooking.
  5. Be careful with sharp knives, keep your fingers away from the blade.
  6. Always cut food on a chopping board.

Cooking at all ages

Children are more likely to want food they have prepared. Below are some suggestions for cooking activities that might be appropriate for you kids.

Age

 How they can help you cook

2-3 year olds

 Wash vegetables and fruit or tear lettuce and salad greens.

3-4 year olds

 Mash potatoes and bananas or mix together batters.

4-6 year olds

 Measure dry and liquid ingredients or set the table.

6-8 year olds

 Toss salad ingredients together or make a simple breakfast.

8-12 year olds

 Make their own school lunch or help to plan meals.

12 year olds and up

 Follow more complicated recipes or assemble and mix most ingredients.

Teens

 Take charge of making one meal per week.

These are just suggestions and your kids may be able to do more or less in the kitchen. Involving children in food preparation may not only enhance their cooking skills, but help develop important life skills such as how to measure and how to follow instructions.

Tips to keep family time in the kitchen fun and relaxed

  1. Let children help when you can. Children learn better when they do things, rather than just watching.
  2. Cook together when you’re not in a rush. It can be slower and messier when your child first starts to help.
  3. Read the recipe beforehand. Before you begin to cook you should read the recipe through from beginning to end.
  4. Be prepared. Have equipment and ingredients ready on the table to save a lot of hassle while children are still learning.

Remember, it is okay for your child to make mistakes, that's how they learn!