Six by Sixteen wants to teach young people to plan and
prepare six nutritious, meals by the time they are sixteen
When we teach our children to make good food choices, we
prepare them for a lifetime of health.
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics www.eatright.org recommends the best way to teach kids about eating right is to actually get them into the kitchen to prepare healthy meals together. Cooking is a valuable life skill that teaches children about nutrition and food safety, as well as building math, science, literacy and fine motor skills.
Encourage your child’s interest and even excitement in healthy foods by teaching your kids how to cook safely with this guide of age-appropriate kitchen activities.
Food Safety Basics
Before you enter the kitchen, cover the ground rules with children first:
- Wash hands in warm, soapy water before and after handling food.
- Pull long hair back.
- Keep counter tops and working surfaces clean.
- Teach children to wait until the food is cooked before tasting. Don’t let them lick their fingers or put their hands in their mouths, especially when working with raw foods such as cookie dough and raw meat or poultry.
- Avoid double dipping or putting spoons back into food after using them for tasting.
- Remember, young cooks need supervision.
- Teach the four simple steps:
- Wash hands, surfaces and kitchen utensils.
- Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook to proper temperatures.
- Refrigerate promptly to 40 degrees F or below.
3-5 year olds
Young children love helping out, but need very close adult supervision since their motor skills are still developing. Teach these youngsters the importance of washing produce and using clean appliances and utensils.
- Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Make it a game by singing the “Happy Birthday” song together twice as you wash your hands.
- Wash fruits and vegetables in the sink with cool tap water.
- Wipe up tabletops.
- Mix ingredients like easy-to-mix batters.
- Brush (or “paint”) oil with a clean pastry brush on bread, asparagus or other foods.
- Cut cookies with fun shaped cookie cutters (but don’t eat the raw dough!).
6-7 year olds
Most 6-7 year olds have developed fine motor skills, so they can handle more detailed work, but they will still need food safety reminders.
- Use a peeler to peel raw potatoes, ginger, mangoes and other fruits and vegetables.
- Break eggs into a bowl.
- Scoop out avocados.
- Deseed tomatoes and roasted peppers with a spoon.
- Snap green beans.
- Load the dishwasher.
- Shuck corn and rinse before cooking.
- Rinse and cut parsley or green onions with blunt scissors.
8-9 year olds
There is a wide range of skills in this age group, so tailor your tasks to each individual’s maturity level. Teach the importance of wiping down all surfaces and refrigerating perishables, such as eggs and milk, within two hours.
- Open cans with a can opener.
- Put leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within two hours.
- Pound chicken on a cutting board. Note: Always use a separate cutting board for ready-to-eat foods, and be sure to wash hands with warm, soapy water after handling raw chicken.
- Beat eggs.
- Check the temperature of meat with a food thermometer – it’s like a science experiment!
- Juice a lemon or orange.
10-12 year olds
For the most part, kids ages 10 -12 can work independently in the kitchen, but should still have adult supervision. Before letting these kids do grown-up tasks on their own, assess whether they can follow basic kitchen rules such as tucking pan handles, unplugging electrical appliances, using knives and safely using the oven or microwave.
Appropriate Tasks (with adult supervision):
- Boil pasta.
- Microwave foods.
- Follow a recipe, including reading each step in order and measuring ingredients accurately.
- Bake foods in the oven.
- Simmer ingredients on the stove.
- Slice or chop vegetables.
Below are eight recipes developed by Kate Sherwood at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The recipes are part of The Fast & Fresh collection it also includes Salads, Soups & Side Dishes, and Main Courses. Find them all at NutritionAction.com. Each of the recipes is perfect for teaching young cooks. Have Fun.
The secret to moist fish: simmer it gently over low heat. Total Time: 30 minutes | Serves 4
INGREDIENTS 1 onion, sliced
1 bulb fennel, cored and sliced
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 15 oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
½ lb. baby potatoes, diced
¾ lb. white fish, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup shelled edamame
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 jarred roasted red pepper
1. In a large skillet, sauté the onion and fennel in the oil until soft, 5-7 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. In a small pot, simmer the potatoes until tender, 8-10 minutes.
4. Add the potatoes and 1 cup of the cooking water to the skillet. Turn the heat to low.
5. Add the fish and edamame and very gently simmer until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with up to ½ tsp. of salt.
6. In a small food processor, purée the mayonnaise with the red pepper.
7. Ladle the stew into bowls and serve with a spoonful of the roasted red pepper mayonnaise. Photo: Jorge Bach/CSPI. Per Serving: Calories: 370 | Total Fat: 22 g | Sat Fat: 3 g | Protein: 23 g | Carbs: 19 g | Fiber: 4 g | Cholesterol: 30 mg | Sodium: 400 mg
Pan-Seared Wild Salmon with Citrus Salsa
Other sustainable fish that you can use: Arctic char and Spanish mackerel. Total Time: 35 minutes | Serves 4
¼ small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 Tbs. canola oil, divided
2 bell peppers, sliced
½ lb. zucchini, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 lb. wild salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
DIRECTIONS 1. Make the salsa: Segment the orange and lime. Cut the orange segments into quarters. Toss the orange and lime segments in a bowl with the onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Set aside.
2. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the peppers and zucchini until well browned, 3-5 minutes. Season with pepper and ¼ tsp. of the salt. Remove the vegetables and keep them warm. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels.
3. Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. of oil until shimmering. Season the fish on both sides with pepper and the remaining ¼ tsp. of salt and add to the skillet, skin side up. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook for another 3 minutes, or until just cooked through.
4. Transfer the fish to 4 plates, spoon on the salsa, and serve with the vegetables. Photo: Kate Sherwood/CSPI. Per Serving: Calories: 280 | Total Fat: 14 g | Sat Fat: 2 g | Protein: 27 g | Carbs: 12 g | Fiber: 3 g | Cholesterol: 50 mg | Sodium: 300 mg
Buy a firm-fleshed white fish that will hold together while frying. Try tilapia, domestic mahi-mahi, or halibut. Total Time: 30 minutes | Makes 10 tacos
1⁄3 cup low-fat sour cream
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 bunch cilantro
¾ tsp. salt
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup cornmeal
1½ lbs. firm-fleshed fish, cut into 1-inch strips
10 6-inch soft corn tortillas, warmed according to package instructions
1 avocado, peeled and cut into chunks 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped ¼ red onion, thinly sliced 2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1. In a food processor, purée the sour cream, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and salt. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. While the oil heats, spread the cornmeal on a plate. Pat the fish in the cornmeal to coat on all sides. Fry in the oil until the cornmeal is lightly browned, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.
3. To assemble the tacos, top each tortilla with fish, cilantro sauce, avocado, tomato, red onion, and cabbage, then fold in half. Photo: Stephen Schmidt/CSPI. Per Taco: Calories: 210 | Fat: 8 g | Sat Fat: 1 g | Protein: 16 g | Carbs: 20 g | Fiber: 4 g | Cholesterol: 60 mg | Sodium: 260 mg