Children who learn to cook will eat better as adults

Learning to prepare food and cook are life skills we all need. Developing these skills early in life will encourage children to make healthy food choices and increase their confidence in preparing meals for themselves and others during their entire life.

Many food preparation skills build on and encourage math, reading, organizational and mechanical skills. Calculating measurement amounts, reading recipes, organizing the ingredients needed and then measuring, combining and mixing the ingredients in the correct order are practical ways to practice these skills.

With busy lifestyles and activities, parents and children often don’t have the opportunity to spend time together. Kitchen time can be a great place to talk, have fun and share the experience.

One key is for the adult to relax. The food prep may be messier, slower and not as attractive, but the long-term benefits of time together and developing the child’s food preparation skills are the bonus.

Begin with age appropriate skills.

For very young children, scrubbing potatoes or carrots with a vegetable brush is really a new form of water play. Advance to learning to poke a potato for baking with a fork or peeling a carrot with a vegetable peeler. Measuring and mixing of dry ingredients for cookies, pancakes or muffins are also good beginner skills. Cracking eggs into a separate dish or chopping soft fruits and vegetables with a plastic knife are opportunities for developing co-ordination skills.

Introduce the importance of hygiene before, during and after handling food. Emphasize the need to wash hands and clean counters and cutting boards after touching raw eggs and meat.

For children with long hair, have them tie it back and/or cover it with a hat. There is nothing worse than finding a long hair in your food. Long hair hanging loose is also a fire and safety hazard.

The desire to taste the food during preparation should be limited to a clean spoon for each taste — no double dipping.

Growing their own food

Many children have never had the opportunity to see how food grows. Sprouting mustard seeds in a kitchen window is an easy way for children to see how a seed grows and produces something that is healthy to eat.

Sprouting mustard seeds

To sprout mustard seeds, assemble the following equipment:

  • clear plastic tub with lid
  • yellow mustard seeds
  • clean towel
  • salad spinner

Soak mustard seeds for six to 12 hours in water: one part seed to four parts water. Drain and rinse seeds.

Rinse the soaked seeds several times to clean them.

Line the bottom of a flat clear plastic container with a wet, clean towel. Spread rehydrated mustard seeds onto the wet towel. Cover the plastic container with a lid or clean towel and place the container by a window or sunny warm area to allow chlorophyll development.

Water the sprouts two or three times daily and drain the excess water for three to five days until the roots are the desired length.

Rinse sprouts well. Remove excess water by spinning in a salad spinner. This drying process stops the sprouting and extends the shelf life. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days. Add them to sandwiches, fresh rolls or salads.

Shrimp and vegetable cold rolls with mustard sprouts

This recipe serves 10.

  • 1/2 c. dry vermicelli rice noodles 125 mL
  • 10 sheets rice paper wrapper, 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in diameter
  • 2-1/2 c. yellow mustard sprouts 625 mL
  • 10 large cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut in half
  • 1 medium cucumber, cut into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, cut into thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Serve with Thai-style mustard dip or sassy creamy mustard dip.
In a medium pot of boiling water, cook noodles for two minutes. Drain and cool under cold water.
In a large, shallow bowl of hot water, dip one rice paper wrapper for a few seconds. Gently shake off excess water and lay wrapper on clean countertop until softened. Work with one wrapper at a time.
Centre and arrange noodles, sprouts, shrimp, cucumber, carrots and pepper horizontally. Don’t overstuff. Drizzle mustard dipping sauce over the filling.
Carefully roll and fold up the ends of the wrapper to form a tight cylinder. Set aside, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Serve with the remaining dip.
Per serving 94.28 grams: calories 76.39, protein 2.62 grams, carbohydrates 15.62 grams, fibre 0.86 grams, sugar 1.79 grams, fat 0.38 grams, saturated fat 0.03 grams, trans fat zero grams, cholesterol 8.89 milligrams, sodium 395.41 mg.

Sassy creamy mustard dip

This recipe makes half a cup (125 mL) and serves 9 — 1 tbsp. (15 mL).

  • 1/4 c. mayonnaise 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. honey mustard 60 mL
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 5 mL

In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
Serve as a dipping sauce with cold rolls or drizzle inside on cold roll filling.
Per serving 15 grams: calories 37.07, protein 0.36 grams, carbohydrates 3.80 grams, fibre 0.33 grams, sugar 2.56 grams, fat 2.74 grams, saturated fat 0.40 grams, trans fat 0.01 grams, cholesterol 2.55 mg, sodium 108.52 mg.

Thai-style mustard dip

Makes one-third of a cup (75 mL) and serves 10 — 1 1/2 tsp. (7 mL).

  • 1/4 c. sweet Thai chili sauce 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard 15 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. soy sauce 1 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh lime juice 1 mL
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. toasted sesame seed 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. toasted yellow mustard seed (optional) 5 mL

Stir together in a small bowl Thai sauce, mustard, soy sauce, lime juice, oil, sesame seed and mustard seed.
Serve as a dipping sauce with prepared cold rolls or drizzle inside a cold roll.
Per serving 10 grams: calories 27.38, protein 0.11 grams, carbohydrates 3.11 grams, fibre 0.4 grams, sugar 1.96 grams, fat 1.72 grams, saturated fat 0.105 grams, trans fat 0.01 grams, cholesterol zero mg, sodium 196.24 mg.
Recipes are adapted from Mustard Makeovers & More! 100 Marvellous Recipes for Busy Families, a cookbook developed by the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission. It contains many kid-approved recipes and ideas for encouraging children to participate in meal preparation. The book is available at for about $20.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

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