Andrew Kaplan, who is the co-founder and director of Rachael Ray’s cooking and kids charity, Yum-o!, joins the celebrity chef to explain why (and how) parents should give the most important meal of the day an upgrade.
What breakfast tips can you offer parents to bring their families together in the kitchen?
Rachael Ray: Food is fuel for the brain and a good breakfast can help kickstart a great day. A good quality, not so sugary, cereal is always quick and easy. My mom loves oatmeal, but more and more these days you see people making overnight oats. This is a fun project for parents to do with their kids. It’s kind of like a science experiment, because the next morning the child has something to look forward to. You can get as creative as you want and add different fruit or flavoring such as maple syrup or honey or a spoon of peanut butter or almond butter.
Whole grains are always a nice option (and quite filling) whether used for toast or pancakes or French toast. Try spreading different things like jam or nut butter on toast. Breakfast casseroles like Italian strata are super fun, but you can save those for a weekend project if you want to do it as a family. If you have a blender, don’t count out smoothies. Once you find the right ratio of liquid to fruit, they are a great way to get nutritious foods (and greens) into your child’s diet.
Do you have suggestions for fostering healthy eating habits in kids at a young age?
Andrew Kaplan: I can go on and on and on about this. First off, the more you let your kids see and be involved in the kitchen and the creation of a meal, the better. If kids see you pick up and touch ingredients, taste food, or are involved in the cooking process, the more likely they are to try a food.
Just the other day, I was preparing a meal for my wife and I had a lemon on the counter. My daughter wanted to try it, so I handed it to her. That alone — touching, smelling, putting it to her mouth — that’s an experience. I could have said, “no, it’s not for you,” but then every time she saw a lemon, she’d remember, “No, it’s not for you.” If I know they will not like something, I don’t say “You won’t like this.” I let them experience it for themselves. Something as simple as stirring a pot, reaching into a bag to get a piece of bread and most of all, showing them that you eat it, too.
Too many times I’ve talked with parents that ask how they are supposed to get their kids to eat certain foods if they don’t like it themself. I get it. I don’t love everything, but it’s not about you. You need to open their eyes to these new foods, tastes, smells, textures, and experiences. Sorry, I went off on a tangent, but I can truly go on and on about this.
These days, breakfast is always cereal in a fun, colorful bowl along with some fruit and maybe a piece of toast. Believe it or not, letting the child pick the color of the bowl or plate may help encourage them to eat a certain food or meal. Also, getting a good quality, low-sugar jelly or jam in different flavors helps introduce new flavors. Spreading peanut butter on toast is a good way to get protein.
Try to be a little more mindful of breakfast rather than just throwing something in front of them. It’s a time to start the day together and if they see you eating breakfast, they may be more willing to try a food. Even though one day we like eggs and one day we don’t, we don’t give up. Try cooking them a different way. I happen to not be a fan of hardboiled eggs, but we gave one to the kids the other day and they loved. I guess the moral of the story is, don’t let your dislikes dissuade you from what your children may like.