Ontario Potato Board

Ontario Potato Board

February 26, 2007 15:46 ET

Canada's Kids are Cooking

New survey suggests kids are helping themselves – or helping out in kitchens across Canada

Attention: Agriculture Editor, Food/Beverage Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor ELORA, ONTARIO NEWS RELEASE--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 26, 2007) - A new survey of Canadian families suggests that kids make snacks and meals for themselves and, in a majority of homes, help out in the kitchen on a regular basis. That, according to a leading dietitian, is good news to those who believe the key to teaching children healthy eating habits is to have them roll up their sleeves and learn how food is prepared.

Two-thirds of survey respondents said that children in the family prepare snacks or meals for themselves, while 45 per cent said that children help prepare meals at least once a week. The survey was conducted by Decima Research for the Ontario Potato Board.

"It's great news that kids are getting involved in the kitchen," said registered dietitian and nutrition consultant Sue Mah. "The key is to use that involvement as a fun, hands-on way to learn about healthy eating."

Eating habits of Canadian children are under the microscope due to increasing evidence that many children are not getting enough fruits, vegetables or milk products in their diet, and to rising rates of childhood obesity.

Blame for the poor state of child nutrition in Canada has been laid at the feet of everything from increased screen time (time spent in front of TVs, computers and video games) to a world filled with convenience foods.

"The real question is: What are kids preparing for themselves in the kitchen?" Mah says. "Microwaving processed food isn't going to do much for their overall health, or their understanding of healthy eating. Luckily, there are a lot of healthy food choices that can also be easy and convenient to prepare."

To that end, the Ontario Potato Board has developed a series of recipes for meals and snacks that children can cook for themselves, and some that can be prepared with adult support, depending on their age and cooking skills.

Engaging children in the kitchen is a great boost to their self-esteem and teaches them about what goes into their food. Children as young as four years old can help add and stir ingredients, while older children can start to cut foods, with supervision, and use the microwave oven. The best approach is for a parent to read recipes through with the child and determine which steps the parent needs to do and what the child can do. Caution in the kitchen is always required, so a full briefing on kitchen safety should be the first step.

The Ontario Potato Board's new recipes have all passed muster with the Board's panel of kid-tasters aged four to 12 years. Simple to prepare, the recipes use kid-friendly flavours, like pizza toppings and Tex-Mex spices. There are also one-dish dinner solutions such as Greek-style chicken and potatoes and even a lasagna featuring layers of potatoes rather than pasta.

"Because they are easy to cook in the microwave, potatoes can also be a convenient snack or quick mealtime solution," Mah says. "The benefit is that potatoes pack quite a punch when it comes to nutrients. They feature all the benefits and energy of a complex carbohydrate with the essential vitamins and minerals of a vegetable."

Potatoes are an important source of the nutrients that kids need, like potassium, vitamin C, B vitamins, folate and iron.

"The recipes demonstrate that potatoes don't have to be French fried to please young palates," says Mah. "By incorporating flavours they love and using healthy cooking techniques, the recipes teach kids that delicious foods can be good for them too."
-30- /For further information: Farah Tayabali, 905-206-1025, ext. 224
or Joan Lister, 905-206-1025, ext. 222/ IN: FOOD

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