NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Meals Together - Sometimes? Never?

Meals Together – Sometimes?, Never?

            An increasing number of children and teenagers are eating more meals and snacks away from their home and family. Did you know?-

  • Only about one-third of families eat together at least once a day.
  • Frequent family mealtimes are related to better school performance in children.
  • On average, about 29 percent of kids make their own dinner at times.

      Children and/or teens who help prepare a snack or meals are more likely to try a new food, to eat with their families and to make healthier food choices. 

      Young cooks can develop confidence, responsibility and independence when they can help you prepare a snack or meal.  When kids begin to cook, they can help stir, pour, shake and tear. As they become more experienced, they can move on to spread, mix and knead. Later they can cut, grate and measure with supervision! Kids can develop math and language skills when they measure ingredients and read recipes. Cooking also gives kids a sense of accomplishment. They have a sense of pride when they finish cooking and get to share what they have made with their family.

Around age 5 to 7, kids should be able to perform the following tasks with supervision:

  • Helping collect ingredients from the cupboards, refrigerator and freezer
  • Pouring
  • Stirring and mixing ingredients by hand
  • Assisting in measuring ingredients
  • Setting a timer

Around age 8 to 10, they may be able to help perform tasks such as:

  • Preheating the oven to the correct temperature
  • Using the microwave
  • Using a blender with assistance
  • Using a knife to cut, slice or dice with supervision

These age-appropriate tasks will be different for each child, depending on how much experience he or she has in the kitchen.

            Kids often fall short on whole grains, calcium-rich foods, fruits and vegetables in their diets.  Children should be eating at least 6 ounces of grains (including at least 3 ounces of whole grain foods), 3 cups of milk or dairy products, 1½ cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables daily. Following are some kid friendly recipes that feature whole grain foods.

Granola Bars

4 c. uncooked oats (not instant)
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ c. raisins or dried cranberries
½ c. shredded coconut
1 c. chopped nuts (cashews, peanuts or walnuts)
¾ c. melted butter
½ c. honey

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well with greased hands and press into a well-greased 15.5-inch by 10.5-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 450 degrees for eight to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool thoroughly and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container to keep them chewy. Makes approximately 32 servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 21 grams (g) carbohydrate, 8 g fat and 1 g fiber.

Fruit Salsa

1 pint fresh or frozen strawberries, washed and hulled
1 large ripe  peach or pear, fresh or canned, cut into ½-inch pieces
1/3 c. fresh mint leaves, thinly slivered, plus
6 whole sprigs for garnish (optional)
½ jalapeno chili, seeded and minced, or to taste
2 Tbsp. lime juice, or to taste
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar, or to taste

Dice strawberries into ½-inch pieces. Combine all the ingredients for the salsa in a bowl and gently toss to mix. Add lime juice and sugar to taste. The salsa should be a little sweet and a little sour. Chill thoroughly. Makes approximately eight to 10 servings. Each serving has 35 calories, 8 grams (g) carbohydrate, 0 g fat and 1 g fiber.

Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

10 10-inch flour tortillas (whole-wheat or white)
Butter-flavored cooking spray
½ to 1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cinnamon and sugar together and place in empty spice container (or use commercial cinnamon-sugar mix). To make cinnamon chips, coat one side of tortilla with cooking spray. Cut into wedges of desired size and place in single layer on baking sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray. Bake for eight to 10 minutes. Repeat for remaining wedges. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve with salsa.  Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 240 calories, 42 grams (g) carbohydrate, 6 g fat and 2 g fiber.


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