“I sustain myself with the love of family.” Dr. Maya Angelou
As I was writing this piece, before I published it I asked my oldest daughter Shaian for her opinion on an opening statement. Shaian is hilarious, a prankster with a sweet tooth, is super bright and a journalism student. I value her opinion.
I explained to Shaian my goal and asked, ‘which one of these statements would you start with?’:
- Children learn by example. If they see their parents cooking and eating a healthy diet, they will most likely do the same.
- Cooking with children isn’t just a nice-to-do activity. The kitchen, used properly, is a starting place for young people to get involved with meal planning and preparation – weaving together the realities of their nutritional needs.
- I believe that if children can play a part in deciding what the family will cook for dinner, they’ll be more likely to accept new foods.
- When a child learns how to cook, it opens up to them a new world about nutrition and the importance of making healthy, active living choices.
- When you empower a child to make healthier lifestyle choices through experiential learning, highlighting healthy eating, nutrition, cooking skills and active living, these things can make a difference in promoting and improving their quality of life.
“All these statements are true,” she says. If our children are not healthy, then our society will not flourish.
Meet Ayane (pronounced Aya-neh), my adorable 9 year old niece. Ayane and I had some fun in her mom and dad’s kitchen recently, setting up the scene to make pure, natural smoothies. We talked about favourites foods and colourful fruits and vegetables.
We chatted. We chopped.
Ayane prefers vegetables over fruits. Lettuce, spinach, celery and bell peppers are among her favourites. She also LOVES vegetable lasagna and sushi!
Creating this smoothie together was not only fun, but a learning experience for Ayane. We chatted about cleaning and rinsing produce as an important first step before consuming them. Ayane learned how to measure the ingredients to make a well-balanced, delicious smoothie, and also had the opportunity to safely chop strawberries with a fruit cutter.
What’s important to note here are the skills being developed: learning kitchen safety and how to use equipment including a blender; learning the importance of cleanliness, and having a consciousness of what is being eaten. We also took the time to properly dispose of excess food like the banana peel and mango skin, using a compost bin.
The Perfect Smoothie
The number of ingredients available to make a well-balanced, delicious smoothie, are endless. Here are a few tips I discussed with Ayane about creating the perfect smoothie (in my opinion):
- Have at least one frozen element in the smoothie to get it perfectly chilled and creamy. Frozen fruits, vegetables or crushed ice are great options.
- Start with a base; water, coconut water, plain yogurt or almond milk are my go to.
- Choose your fruit; banana, berries, cherries, grapes, mango, pineapple, avocado, orange, kiwi to name a few.
- Choose your vegetable; spinach and kale are top two in my household. Other great choices include chard, cucumber (great for juicing as well), bell pepper, arugula, and lettuce.
- You have the option to add a booster or flavouring; fresh herbs, fresh ginger, dry spices, seeds, nuts, cocoa powder or nibs, superfood or protein powders such as whey, pea, brown rice.
Of course there are other options for creating smoothies to make it thicker and sweeter. I stuck with the basics so to not overwhelm the process.
A good blender is essential if you frequently make smoothies. Ayane had fun with adding the ingredients to the blender and then pressing the start button (hey, pushing the button was also a highlight). Her preference is a not too thick smoothie. Now it’s time to blend until smooth.
Have a Good Time Cooking With Your Kids
Cooking with children isn’t just a nice-to-do activity. The kitchen, used properly, is a starting place for young people to get involved with meal planning and preparation – weaving together the realities of their nutritional needs.
I did not teach my daughters how to cook. They did not stalk me in the kitchen like I did my Mom. However, somewhere along the way they learned more than a few basics. They’re experts in making smoothies (I never did like buying soft drinks or boxed juices). They know how to use seasoning. They know how to make a mean pasta sauce, roast vegetables, cook rice, eggs and pancakes. Best of all, they like to eat healthy even if the food is not home made. I’d like to say they learned by the examples I set for them.
The Goal: Inspire, Empower, Motivate
Ayane got the opportunity to touch, feel and experience creating something sweet and delicious with some of her favourite fruits and vegetables. Most importantly, she had fun with it. With three younger brothers between the ages of 2 and 7, she appreciated the distraction and time spent with her now cartooned, Auntie Eartha.
To my point previously mentioned, when you empower a child to make healthier lifestyle choices through experiential learning, highlighting healthy eating, nutrition, cooking skills and active living, these things can make a difference in promoting and improving their quality of life.
Cheers to you Ayane!
Also be sure to check out our Cooking Green Goodness page for delectable smoothie recipes.