Think about your experiences in the kitchen of your childhood home. I’d bet you probably fall into one of two camps. Either your kitchen was the “heart of the home,” a place where family members congregated not just to cook, but to talk, learn, and revel in the comfort of sharing family traditions…or it was basically just the place where the freezer and microwave lived.
Thanks to Food Day and the growing food movement, we’re now more aware of how the convenience foods and drive-through options that edged out home cooking have been a significant contributor to our pressing obesity epidemic. The growing interest in home cooking as preventive medicine is both exciting and encouraging, especially to a registered dietitian like me!
But I hope that on Food Day, we’ll also keep in mind the social benefits of cooking and eating as a family. Spending this time with our children on a regular basis not only equips them with the skills they’ll need to make beneficial dietary decisions as adults and prevent obesity, but also is associated with improved academic performance and reduced levels of substance abuse and teen depression.
The Kids Cook Monday is a movement that encourages parents and educators to cook with children for all of these reasons. Also, it’s fun! Our pilot demonstrated that the program inspires families to cook and eat together more often and builds confidence in the children participating. Since its inception in 2009, our program has been implemented by organizations including afterschool programs, camps and supermarkets, as well as in households all across America.
Getting kids into the kitchen is important any day of the week, but Monday is an especially great day to take action. The founding principle of The Monday Campaigns, which launched The Kids Cook Monday, is that research suggests Mondays are the best days to create healthy habits that stick. Families may also have additional time over the preceding weekend to pick out an exciting new recipe and go food shopping together. Plus, there will probably be leftovers for an easy-to-prepare family dinner later in the week!
Yet I believe that most importantly, making the commitment to cook as a family at least once, every week, provides children with an ever-renewing opportunity to spend quality time with their parents and siblings and experience a sense of ownership over the meals they prepare. How better to develop a new generation of healthy, responsible eaters to carry out Food Day’s mission than to instill the habit from a young age and associate it with fond memories? That’s what The Kids Cook Monday is all about!
Article by: Diana K. Rice, RD
Diana K. Rice is a registered dietitian on staff with The Monday Campaigns. Prior to working on The Kids Cook Monday, she implemented children’s cooking programs with organizations including Spoons Across America, HealthBarn USA, Allergic to Salad and the YMCA of Greater New York.