The Washington Post

10 foods a kid should learn how to cook

(Brian Summers/Getty Images/First Light)

In his 2010 TED presentation, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver announced his hope that “every single American child leaves [high] school knowing how to cook 10 recipes that will save their lives.” Because many chronic diseases can be prevented by proper nutrition, I agree with Oliver; for our kids’ sake, we should teach them to cook.

Have I taught my son how to cook? I hate to admit that the answer is no, I haven’t. I’ve taught him about healthful choices, and I’ve fed him well every day. At 9 years old, he is familiar with the kitchen, and he knows how to peel, chop and measure, but if he were at college right now, I doubt he would know how to make a real meal for himself.

I imagine he will have limited cooking equipment those first years on his own, along with a limited budget, but fast food, takeout and prepared meals shouldn’t be his only options. I want him to know what to do with all of the healthful vegetables and foods we’ve eaten here at home so he can nourish his body and brain. So I am on a new mission to teach my kids to cook, starting with 10 recipes that will nourish them, inexpensively, and make them a big hit on Super Bowl day — or, dare I say, on a date?

In the meantime, I plan to get my son involved in the cooking process more often, teaching him how to determine whether produce is ripe, what “roasting” means and how to saute. As a mother, these are some of the lessons I hope to pass down to him. These, and to write more the next time he goes to camp! Here is my list; I encourage you to make your own:

1. Bolognese sauce

— Provides protein and antioxidants.

— Inexpensive (the only expensive ingredient is good-quality meat.)

— Can be made in large batches and frozen for the future.

— Or try a homemade sloppy joe, which has similar nutrients and a similar price tag, and can also be made in big batches.

2. A stir-fry with brown rice

— Can be prepared with any vegetables or choice of meat.

— Inexpensive.

— Quick and easy.

— Brown rice can be the foundation of many meals, including a simple beans and rice.

3. Roasted chicken

— An easy entertaining meal.

— Provides days of leftovers that can be used in sandwiches, salads, soups, stir-fries or burritos or eaten plain.

4. Chili

— Good source of protein and vegetables.

— Can be made vegetarian or with meat.

— Requires just one pot.

— Inexpensive.

— Can be made in batches and frozen for another night.

— Did I mention the Super Bowl?

5. Homemade soup

— Knowing how to start a homemade soup with onions and garlic can be the root of many easy, inexpensive meals.

— Add beans or chicken to provide extra protein to a vegetable or noodle soup.

— Requires just one pot.

— Inexpensive.

— Can be made in batches and frozen for another night.

6. Fish baked in parchment

— Provides protein and healthful fats.

— Quick and easy.

— Technique works for most varieties of fish.

— Makes a great filling for tacos or a topping for salad.

7. Eggs

— Provide important protein to start the day strong.

— Make an easy dinner, too.

— Breakfast is not a meal to skip, yet most restaurant and store-bought breakfasts are sugar-laden.

8. Smoothie

— A healthful breakfast, snack or dessert.

9. Roasted vegetables

— Any veggie will do; the skill is the same.

10. Guacamole

— Full of protein and healthful fat.

— Can even be a meal on its own in a crunch,

— Always a hit at a party.

Related stories:

Kids and dessert: How much is too much?

Teach kids to eat a full spectrum of good food

6 ways to help kids have a healthy relationship with food

Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company.

Casey Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company, and author of “The Super Food Cards,” a collection of healthful recipes and advice.


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