Jessica Levinson is a registered dietitian and the mom of twin girls. She’s a big advocate for getting into the kitchen and cooking with kids, plus she uses Mondays to help keep her family’s nutritious diet on track! We chatted with her to uncover some of her best tips for cooking with young kids and staying sane while keeping everyone fed.
You’re a big advocate for getting kids into the kitchen and you’re also the mom to twin girls. Is it tough to cook with two small kids at once? Any tips you can share?
Cooking with kids in general is a lot of fun, but can also be challenging. Cooking with both my girls at the same time poses different challenges in that I really need to have my eyes everywhere to oversee them and they each want to do what the other one does, so I need to make sure I divide up tasks fairly! I always review the recipe with them before we begin and either tell them who will be doing what job or let them choose what they want to do. For example, one of my girls loves cracking eggs while the other loves pouring ingredients into bowls!
Would you say that cooking with you has played a role in encouraging your daughters to eat healthy, varied diets? How?
Absolutely! Whether they help me make a meal or are just watching me cook, the exposure to a variety of foods and seeing the process from start to finish definitely encourages them to eat what I make. They will often taste raw veggies when I’m chopping them up, even if they won’t eat the same vegetables cooked. And when they help cook something they are much more excited to try it on their plate.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in encouraging your kids to eat nutritious diets and how have you addressed them?
The biggest challenge thus far is all the birthday parties, holidays, and events where the food options are not the healthiest. Peer influence is also starting to play a role in what my girls eat, as they see friends eating different foods than they get. I often talk to them about what makes a balanced plate and how we can make sure that we get the foods we need to stay strong and be healthy. I believe in moderation, so they definitely get to enjoy treats and sometimes I just have to remind myself that it’s just one meal or one day!
What are your best tips for parents to help them serve healthy food and stay sane at the same time? We hear that one of them has something to do with Mondays?
Haha…are you talking about my Menu Plan Mondays?! I’m a big advocate of meal planning and every Monday I share my menu plan for the week so that I can personally stay on track to serve my family healthy meals, but also to hopefully inspire other families to do the same. Planning a menu and making a grocery list to go along with it takes some time upfront, but saves time during the week. It also helps to do any meal prep you can in advance – like chopping and roasting vegetables and making a pot of quinoa or pasta, which you can keep in the fridge and use throughout the week.
What are your favorite meals to cook together as a family?
On the most basic level, my girls love to help me make their smoothies! On the weekends we often make egg in a hole or pancakes together. It’s also a lot of fun to have them help make their own pizzas – they love that!