Editor's note: This is the fifth story in CNN's series exploring the issues surrounding childhood obesity.
It's a sweet, sticky, crunchy, ooey-gooey, chocolate-drizzled, cheese-stuffed, deep-fried world out there, and we can't pretend it doesn't tastes pretty darned delicious. Nearly from birth, American kids are blasted with ads for foods that send their taste buds into overdrive, but don't do them any nutritional favors.
These treats might be okay in very careful moderation, but if it's hard enough for adults to resist the sugary, salty siren call, how can we expect kids to do so? A parent needs an arsenal. Grab your knives.
"There are so many practical and amazing reasons why you should teach your kids to cook," Workman says. "The most obvious is that if you don't, in short order they will find themselves with a takeout menu in their hands, or on line at a supermarket with a cart of frozen food or prepared meals, and ultimately we'll have retirement homes filled with heavy old people nibbling chicken nuggets and debating the merits of barbecue sauce versus honey mustard, both of which will give them heartburn."
It's never too early to start, Workman says, and it's not just about knocking out a momentary case of the munchies. "Like any skill, the older you get, the more difficult it is to learn. They will understand and appreciate food in a deeper way, they will be comfortable in the kitchen, they will develop broader palates, and they will be able to entertain people, which is an undervalued and ever-shrinking asset. You will be giving them a new place to discover things and be creative."
And the benefits keep adding up, Workman says. "They will learn math, multiplication and fractions. We talk about how this generation are tech natives, growing up with computer skills, so they are completely comfortable with the language of technology. It seems to make a lot of sense to invest a bit of energy into doing the same for them in the kitchen."
Steel says, "The old adage of if you teach a man to fish, you have fed him for a lifetime particularly resonates with kids. Once they understand what healthy foods are, and how they can make simple things for themselves like snacks, salads, and desserts, then you have empowered them and put them on a path of healthier eating for the rest of their life. Just as we try and teach our kids the golden rules, so, too, should we teach them the golden rules of eating well."
While it might seem like a pain in your overworked neck to herd the whole family into the kitchen to prepare a meal, doing it just once a week will have immediate and lasting benefits - and you might even end up enjoying yourselves.
Here are five good reasons to get in the kitchen with your kids:
It's quality time.
Traditions can span generations.
It doesn't matter if it's a new homemade pasta every Friday, exploring a different international cuisine every Sunday, delving into Grandma's recipe box or setting up a make-your-own-pizza bar before you watch American Idol. What matters is that it's time spent together, centered around developing healthy habits. Your young ones might even share this comforting tradition with their own kids someday.
They'll see the whole picture.
And encourage them to get their hands dirty. If they've stirred the pot, peeled the carrots, mashed the sweet potatoes or washed the lettuce, they've still had a role in making the dish. It'll be hard to say no to their own handiwork, even if they have rejected that ingredient when it's appeared on their plate before.
Workman notes that it's critical for kids to see exactly what goes into their food. "They will see how much fat or salt or sugar goes into something, and understand why certain foods should be eaten with moderation, and to look at fast food or processed foods with a more educated framework," she says.
It's a chance to explore the world.
Just make a deal with the whole family to agree upon one - just one - new fruit, vegetable, spice or grain each time you go to the grocery store, and make that the lesson for the week. Study up on its origins, nutritional benefits, cultural importance, cooking methods and traditional dishes and make it the star for one meal. They might not all be hits, but you as a family can decide which ones are crowned king of the kitchen and which are sent straight to the dungeon.
It's a confidence booster.
Not only might they end up cooking for you (and wouldn't that be a sweet treat?) - once they leave the nest, they'll be the superstar of their college dorm, apartment complex and (gasp!) even date night.
Got a favorite recipe or ritual you share with your kids? Please let us know in the comments below and we'll highlight our favorite in an upcoming feature.
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