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A spoonful of nutrition education: the benefits of cooking with your child

by Courtney Klebe, Bowling Green State University Dietetic Intern Food and Nutrition Graduate Student

My name is Courtney Klebe and I am from South Lyon, MI. I am a Bowling Green State University (BGSU) graduate student studying nutrition in hopes to becoming a registered dietitian! I am currently a BGSU dietetic intern as well. I inspire to work in a hospital as a pediatric dietitian once I complete my Master’s degree in May of 2016. Other than talking about nutrition, I enjoy running, snowboarding, cooking, exploring new recipes on Pinterest and spending time with my family!


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in teens in the past 30 years (1). Social media has done a great job on increasing physical activity and proper nutrition with children by providing more and more programs related to health, nutrition and exercise being implemented in schools across the nation to promote healthier lifestyles in children. But what else could be done to decrease this epidemic? Why don’t we trace it back to the beginning: let’s try cooking from scratch!

Cooking 101:

Cooking is a practical way to teach kids basic skills around the kitchen and can also be used as an academic learning tool for your child. Measuring ingredients, reading recipes and learning about what is in a recipe gives children a chance to enhance their math, reading and nutrition knowledge and skill! Actual cooking experiences and eating food with peers, accompanied by cognitive learning, may provide a promising approach to nutrition education, especially for younger children (2). Home cooking skills may be important because they enable an understanding of what a healthy diet is and it empowers individuals to exercise control over their diet (2). We have fallen into this trap of consuming highly processed, pre-packaged foods that we can’t be so sure that kids know where different foods come from. It is important to include kids in the cooking process to educate them about the foods they eat, their health benefits and where their food comes from. It is true that cooking with kids is very time consuming and can be stressful, but the short and long term benefits are worth it!

How to start cooking with your kids:

The best meal time to start cooking with your kids is dinner. This is the time when families are usually all together at home and preparing a meal with everyone is easiest. There are plenty of ways in which you can get your child more involved in the cooking process(3). Some ways include:

  1. Preparing ingredients: Kids can learn how to handle multi-tasking by gathering a variety of ingredients around the kitchen to prepare for cooking. While gathering different ingredients you can educate your kids on the importance of each ingredient and how it can help them grow! For example, if an ingredient calls for milk, educate them on the importance of drinking milk to help them build strong bones. This is also the time to emphasize safety in the kitchen as kids will see you chopping and slicing different foods.
  2. Measure and pour: Kids can watch you measure and mix ingredients, while you can educate them on what different portion sizes look like. For example, explaining the terms “cup, teaspoon, tablespoon” etc. As they get older, let them measure and pour ingredients and count on their own!
  3. The cooking process: Teaching kids the importance of stirring ingredients can be a great education session in science. Kids can learn how to incorporate air into some ingredients and learn what happens when you mix different items together.
  4. Cleaning up: Teaching kids basic cleaning skills is a great way to get them prepared for when they leave the nest! This is a great time to demonstrate proper cleaning and educating the importance of why dishes need to be washed.
  5. Serving sizes: Kids can learn about proper portions as they build their plate for dinner. Using the MyPlate as a guide is a great way to educate kids on proper portions.

A fun recipe to try with your kids:

Apple Oatmeal Muffins (4,5)

1/2 cup milk, non-fat

1/3 cup applesauce

1/2 cup flour, all-purpose

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (uncooked)

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 apple (tart, cored & chopped)

Apple Oatmeal Muffin


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Place 6 cupcake holders in baking tin.
    3. In a mixing bowl, add milk and applesauce. Stir until blended.
    4. Stir in flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix until moistened (do not over mix).
    5. Gently stir in the chopped apples.
    6. Spoon into cupcake holders.
    7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
    8. Cool in pan 5 minutes before serving.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.
  2. Lukas, Catherine V., and Leslie Cunningham-Sabo. “Qualitative Investigation of the Cooking with Kids Program: Focus Group Interviews with Fourth-Grade Students, Teachers, and Food Educators.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior: 517-24. Print.
  3. “Cooking with Kids.” org. Nemours. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.
  4. “Apple Oatmeal Muffins.” United States Department of Agriculture. What’s Cooking? Mixing Bowl. ONIE Project – Oklahoma Nutrition Information and Education. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.
  5. Pixabay. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.

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One Response

  1. Very nice article. Great job on explaining what the child will gain by helping in the kitchen. The recipe sounds yummy.

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