Episode 21: Meal Planning & Cooking with Kids

In episode 21: Meal Planning & Cooking with Kids of Healthy Family Project’s podcast, we talk to Heather Englund of Fit Mama Real Food about how to start cooking and meal prepping with kids. Heather shares what age to get kids in the kitchen, easy kitchen tasks for little ones, and how to get them involved with meal planning and prepping.

Heather is a fellow podcast host on Fit Mama Real Food Radio. She’s mom to four little ones, teaches a variety of group fitness classes and is an advocate for real food. On her podcast and blog, she talks all about food, fitness, motherhood and mindset.

Why Cooking with Kids Is Important

As most of you know we encourage the kids to help in the kitchen whenever possible! There are so many wonderful benefits. They learn valuable skills, it helps them learn math equations with measurements, and can help them understand what is going into their bodies. Plus they are more likely to want to eat what they are helping prepare. That is just to name a few reasons why cooking with kids is important. So listen to this podcast to learn more!

Meal Planning & Cooking with Kids

Healthy Bites!

Today, we’re snacking on a delicious and refreshing Watermelon Salsa! Perfect to prepare for picnics and potlucks or make a big batch on Sunday to snack on throughout the week.

This Healthy Bite is brought to you by National Watermelon Promotion Board, NatureFresh Farms cherry tomatoes, and Real Sweet Sweet Onions grown by Shuman Farms

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Listen to Episode 21: Meal Planning & Cooking with Kids

Want to skip straight to a hot topic? See time stamps below. But of course, we recommend listening all the way through!

  • 1:10 Meet Heather
  • 2:47 Philosophy around cooking with kids
  • 5:05 What age to bring kids into the kitchen
  • 6:01 Kitchen tasks for kids
  • 17:08 Ideas for kids involved in meal prepping
  • 22:18 Kitchen gadget tips

Other Podcast Episodes to Check Out:

Healthy Family Project Podcast

Conversations covering hot topics in the world of health, food and family with a dose of fun. Helping families ease their way into a new fresh and healthy world.

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episode 21 how to meal plan and cooking with kids

Transcript for Episode 21

This transcript was produced by Otter.Ai. Please forgive any misspellings and grammatical errors.

Welcome to the healthy family project by produce for kids covering the hot topics in the world of health,
food and family with a dose of fun. Today we’re excited to welcome Heather England to the healthy
family project. Heather is a fellow podcast host on Fit mama real food radio, make sure you subscribe.
She’s mom to four little ones teaches a variety of group fitness classes, and is an advocate for real food.
Woohoo. So on her podcast and blog, she talks all about food fitness, motherhood and mindset. And
we’re super excited to have her today. So let’s get chatting with Heather. Welcome, Heather. I’m looking
forward to chatting with you today all about getting kiddos into the kitchen, and how they can help in the
meal planning and prepping process. But before we get started, can you tell us a little bit more about
yourself and the inspiration behind your blog and podcast?
Yeah, hi, Amanda, I would love to first thank you so much for having me on today. I’m super excited to
chat with you and just connect with your listeners. So I have a podcast and a blog fit mama real
food.com Is my website and then fit mama real food. Radio is my podcast. And that’s where I like to
share about all things food, fitness, motherhood, and mindset. And it really all started on the inspiration.
10 years ago, almost 11 years ago with my blog was my own journey to becoming the healthiest version
of myself. And that meant a lot of cooking at home and really focusing on nourishing foods. And then
that’s kind of changed over the years as I’ve had kids, I have four kids ages 642 and 10 months old. And
my journey has just started to include them in the kitchen and start to teach them all about real food. And
it’s just something that I’ve began to share a lot more on my blog, and also on my podcast. And I’m just
super passionate about real food and making it a fun thing for everybody.
Well, it sounds like you have some great things to share with the listeners. And also sounds like you are
a very busy woman. So thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. I know a lot of parents really
shudder at the thought of getting their kids in the kitchen. You know, there’s bound to be a big mess, you
know, larger mess, I guess then if you were in there on your own, the cleanup time might be a little
longer. But there’s so many reasons why this is really important. Can you tell us your philosophy around
cooking with kids?
Yeah, there’s like you said so many reasons. And I think the biggest one for me if I had to just pick one,
which I’ll share some others too, is that these little humans that we have are eventually going to be
adults. And I want them to be able to feed themselves and kind of know how to cook and understand a
little more about, you know, the foods that we put into our body. And I think that starts at a young age, the
youngest that you can just making it a natural thing for them to be in the kitchen and feeling comfortable
in there. And having it be a fun thing. So that would be my number one reason as to why I think it’s
important. But I also think when kids can be involved in the kitchen or in food choices, they’re so much
more willing to try foods, especially if we have kids that are a little resistant to maybe different textures or
different fruits or veggies or whatever it may be getting them in there and letting them have some fun in
the kitchen gets them a little more excited to try those foods. So it can be such a great way to get kids
excited about trying new foods.
I noticed that with my eight year old she is what I call a selective eater because I started using picky and
she really latched on to that, you know like oh well I’m a picky eater. So So I started thinking selective but

anyway, whoo. She’s in the kitchen with me. I know the other day she was using her kiddo knives and it
was cutting a cucumber and she said, You know what, I’m gonna try this. Like she just got all the sudden
adventurous you know? And I thought yes, even though she tried it and didn’t like it. I was still super
excited that she even you know, took the initiative to do it. So I yeah,
I love that. She tried that. I mean, that’s that’s so important that they never tried, they’ll never know and
they have to be exposed to foods so many different times to maybe eventually their taste buds old click
and they’ll enjoy it that time.
Yes, that’s my hope. So I started both my girls off in the kitchen at a young age so they’re more
comfortable as they get older and practice more. Do you have recommendations on a good age to bring
kids into the kitchen? Yeah,
well, I think The youngest that you can the best now, like my 10 month old, she really can’t do anything.
But I like to have her in there maybe in a carrier or in her highchair, just to have her there, start seeing
different foods, you know, tasting things as I’m prepping them. But again, like she can’t really help with
much, but I would say after the age of one and a half, or pretty much when they can like, sit more safely
on the counter, if you want to have them there. And they can stir things that that’s the youngest age that
you could start your kids in the kitchen. And there’s really simple ways to get them involved at the really
young ages. And then as they get older, and did you want to chat about some of those things? Oh, yeah,
yes, for sure. Awesome. So yeah, when I, when I think about my first kiddo, Hunter, getting him involved
in the kitchen, I find like baking things and letting them mix or pour is such a fun way to get them
involved. And like you said, In the beginning, it’s going to be so messy. But kind of allowing that to
happen. Because kids, they love messes. And that can make it really fun for them in the kitchen. So
having them mix or stir or pour things in, that can be really fun, even working on the scooping with a
measuring cup, and some oats or whatever it is that they might be scooping out for the recipe that you’re
working on. That’s a really fun thing for them to do. And also even just having them in the kitchen, maybe
playing with some utensils, as you are talking to them about what you’re doing. Maybe you’re cutting
some vegetables, and you can’t really have them involved in that. But talking to them about what you’re
doing, and how you’re using the knife just so that they’re kind of starting to make that connection with
safety, especially in the kitchen that we’re safe with our knife. We keep our fingers away from the blade.
And I really like to start that at a young age because there’s so many things that can go wrong in the
kitchen safety wise. And if I can start to get their attention on that earlier than that is something that I like
to do with the little ones. Then as they get a little bit older and they have more dexterity, having them
shaped like if we’re making snack balls that will make with nuts, and dried fruit that’s super fun for them
to do working on cracking eggs, which can start you know, as young as two I, I start to get my kids
involved with cracking eggs, having my hand on top of their hand as we’re gently tapping that and then
having their fingers on top of my fingers as we open up egg and then eventually over time as we
practice. It’s amazing, my four and six year old will just crack a dozen eggs for me and it is so helpful. So
I love that so much. And then also getting them involved with like grading things or using a peeler. I like
to have them doing those things before we involve any knives because while they do have sharp edges
to them, it’s not as scary, I would say. But then before we get into those sharp knives, I like to use a
butter knife, chopping bananas spreading peanut butter onto things so getting them used to holding that
knife and that can be done at a really young age, you know in that too and up just getting them used to
that first and then as they have more control and dexterity and focus, they can start implementing that.
That sharper knife with softer things like maybe a cucumber like you’re saying with your daughter so
those are some great ways that I like to bring them into the kitchen when they’re little
Have you seen I forget where I saw it. It’s like a tower that is it’s a stool but the the younger ones so you
know what I’m talking about if you do like learn on the hour, yes, that you the kids, I’ve seen pictures of
them the little ones in this Learning Tower and they’re right up at the counter, but they’re kind of secluded
in the space so that it’s not an actual stool. I think that’s really cool. They didn’t I don’t think it was around
when mine were that age but I feel like that’s awesome for the kitchen. Yeah,

yeah, I have some friends that have it and it’s it’s like such a safe way for them to be at the counter. I
don’t have like, like I don’t want that thing in space right. But I can totally see how it can just be such a
great tool where you can not have to worry about your kid you know, falling off a stool or a chair the
counter. So I love the idea of having them safe at the counter there.
Yes, I love it and then you know we have in our house or like Kid knives. I think we have a we’ll put a link
in the show notes but I believe we have a link up on our website too. I ordered I discovered them several
years ago. And both my daughters have you have used them. I mean, you’re not gonna be able to cut
like steak with it or anything but I mean they work they they do work really well and I think both of them
have you know gained some knowledge and the the knife area through using there that’s like a set of
three or four that they know to go to like, Oh, can I have my knife and they’ll go and, and they know that
those are the knives that they go to to use. So those have been really, really great in our kitchen.
That’s awesome. Have your kiddos use other knives as well, I’ve yet to get some but the one thing that
made me hesitant was I want them to, like know that, yes, they need to be nice, like, like, they’ll be fine.
You know if they have the kid knives, and they won’t cut their finger. But then when they get a real knife,
then I want them to know like, this is different. Rather Be careful have your kids will regular sharp knives
my older daughter who’s 12 does. But I have been looking around here locally, I’m on the hunt. So if
anyone listening is in the Orlando area, and you know, please tweet me or send me a message my 12
year old I would like to get her into a knife like a safety class, or like a cooking school or maybe some
program because I I wouldn’t say that I’m able to probably I’m not a chef. I mean, I cook but I don’t know
that I could teach her the proper knife skills that she needs. You know, I have accidents here and there.
More likely that I would like to admit probably but so I think I gotta find something to get her in. I felt like
that’s that’s my plan for her. And then hopefully I find something that I can then kind of move the eight
year old into as well.
Yeah, yeah, that would be super cool. I, I’m assuming that they have something in my hair like that. But
I’ll have to look into it. Because I think that’s so important for all kids. Like, like I said in the beginning,
they’re gonna be adults later. And having proper knife skills is so key in making cooking easier and faster
and more fun. I think like being confident in the kitchen, knowing that you can prep these foods and
make a meal. That’s just so such a confidence builder.
It really is. And that’s so true. You think about now a little bit of a mess, you know, and what’s the trade
off for it. You know, having this person that goes out into the world and is able to, to kind of create their
own foods and know how to eat and know how to eat well. So worth it I guess my mine so the 12 year
old is now into the chopping. So she been in cutting things she likes to help me with that area. And she’s
she’s pretty. She does pretty well around the stovetop, she made me breakfast the other morning. We
had a little bit of a falling out. So I got breakfast. I got one thing out of it. That was fun. And then you
know what? Something that’s really interesting. my eight year old, she loves breading anything. So if
we’re making homemade chicken nuggets, pork chops, I mean anything zucchini fries, we even like to
make avocado fries. She just loves that process of dipping it and to the you know the egg or whatever it
might be in into the breading and then putting it on to the baking dish or whatever, you know, whatever
we might be using that day. But that for her I mean, if she sees on the dinner table that we have
something that’s breaded and that she was not involved. She is upset about that. That’s her thing. It is it
is it’s so funny too, because I mean, even though, like I said, she’s a selective eater, and a lot of times
she won’t necessarily show. She all helped me in the kitchen and she may not necessarily eat the things
that she has created. But just the fact that she’s there with me. I feel confident that down the road, it will
hopefully migrate into a point where she’s actually eating all of the food she’s creating. Hmm,
yes, I’m sure it will. Yes.

And now we’re going to take a short break for a healthy bite. So Grace, who I work with that produce for
kids is here with me and we are snacking on one of the newest recipes on produce for kids calm and
amazing watermelon salsa. So pardon our crunching as we we take a healthy bite here. Really good.
Very refreshing.
Yeah, really refreshing. So Grace, you whip this up here just a couple minutes ago. What what do we
Okay, very simple. It’s just diced watermelon, cherry tomatoes and sweet onion. And then you add in a
little bit of basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt, salt. The taste really doesn’t need a lot. It’s like Very
flavorful. I love the sweet and savory kind of combo.
But yeah, well, it’s delicious. And so today we’re eating it with these tortilla chips. But I feel like there’s
like other thing other ways you could eat this.
Yeah, definitely over chicken or fish would be really nice, like a nice spring type of meal.
Yes. And it does taste like spring or summer. I know there’s a lot of potlucks and picnics, that that will be
popping up. I know it’s we’re still in the winter months here,
but it’s coming.
I mean, yes. And because we’re talking about meal prepping this month. I feel like this is something you
can make on a Sunday right and need it all week.
Yeah, definitely an easy snack, just pull it out of the fridge or with some chips, and you’re good to go.
Awesome. So this healthy bite is brought to you by our health conscious brand partners, national
watermelon promotion board, nature, fresh cherry tomatoes, and real sweet sweet onions grown by
Shuman farms.
And all of these produce brands are part of our mission for nutrition, which I’m going to be talking about
here in the next couple minutes. And until then, we’re going to be snacking on this watermelon salsa.
Yes, sounds like a plan.
So this month that produce for kids, we are focusing on the importance of the meal plan. So we have this
fun program going on called mission for nutrition during the month of March. And we’re talking all about
meal planning and meal prep and the benefits and easy ways to be able to do it. We even have a free
ebook, at Mission for nutrition, the mission for nutrition calm, I should say for download. So that’s
completely free. We have some fun giveaways that we’re going to be sharing weekly that can help
people with meal prep. So let’s think about what are some easy ways to get your kids involved in meal
planning or prepping? Do you have some ideas for that? Because I know a lot of parents say, you know,
Sunday’s the day, you got to prepare for the week, you got to get your meals in order, because once
Monday hits, it’s, you know, work day after school activities. So what ideas do you have for getting those
kids involved in the meal prep process?

Yeah, well, yeah, meal planning and meal prep is so crucial, especially as parents or anybody with kids
in the house, because when you get in the kitchen with kids, and you’re on a time crunch, then it just gets
a lot harder. So one thing I love to do is get them involved. And that starts with when I’m meal planning,
showing them different ideas of things that we could have during the week, or just getting out some
different cookbooks and letting them look through that. And letting them pick out some different meals or
different kind of snack things that we want to have around the house. And then we start by making that
list. And you know, I can’t say yes to everything all the time. But I do my best to if they are requesting
something trying to fit it in, you know, within reason if it’s like I want a chocolate cake for dinner. But they
do pretty good at picking things that are real food focused. So first meal planning and having them
involved and then when it comes to actually prepping. If they’re going to be in the kitchen with me then I
try to list out for myself all the things that I’m wanting to get done. And with meal prep, I like to have my
most like, longer cooking things in the beginning and all the chopping and different stuff kind of mixed in
throughout. And with my older kiddos I can have them help me with shredding things or peeling and
chopping we often do a lot of egg based egg muffins with veggies because they’re just so great for a
quick breakfast or even just snacks. And they can pretty much make those on their own. We make these
three ingredients, broccoli cheese, egg muffins, and they can crack the eggs. They can grate the cheese,
we use frozen broccoli in it. So there’s not even a chopping involved. So they can put the Yeah, it’s great.
They can put these together in the muffin tins. And then I just put them in and out of the oven because I
have not given them that task yet for six year old. But they had I love when they helped me in the kitchen
because not only like I need the help as a mom of four. You know, sometimes I’ve got my 10 month old
that I’m holding as well trying to do things and so when they can just take one thing off my plate. It’s just
so helpful and that’s just that’s just one thing that they’ll do they’ll also you know, measure marinades for
chicken and pour it into a baggie. Gosh, what are some other things that they’ll do? They’ll make
dressings as well. Lots of different stuff. Yeah, how do you how do your kiddos help you?
Well, we’ve seen what you know we do a lot of snack preparation. So I know as soon as my kids get in
the door they’re reaching for something to eat. So we do a lot of cutting up berry you know strawberries
or Kiwi weed do and this is I guess more on the snack snack line. But my older daughter like celery and
peanut butter, or celery and cream cheese, so she’ll even do several of those and wrap those up in in
aluminum foil so that they’re ready to go. So when she comes in and needs to run out to tennis or to
dance, she can just grab that easily on the go. They do a lot of like a trail mix, to take with them to school
for a snack. So sometimes we’ll set out different bowls, you know, there’ll be granola bar, you know, dark
chocolate, pretzels, dried fruit, and so they’ll kind of go through and make a trail mix and five so that they
have five for each day that they can just grab and then take to school with them. So that snack is
covered off on. And you know, my older daughter, because she’s in middle school not so much, she still
takes something I always pack you know, we always pack something in case she gets hungry. But my
little one definitely, she still has snack time during the day, so she definitely needs her snack. So that’s
just some of the things they do for snacking for dinner. We’ll do just some make ahead things that you
know, whatever we can make on Sunday, a lot of times I’ll do chicken breasts in the slow cooker. And
we’ll kind of shred that or we’ll think about what veggies we want. You know, if we want to do a stir fry,
we’ll just kind of pre chop those because it’s amazing. Just in a busy work day getting home and seeing a
whole onion and already chopped onion. I know it sounds like it doesn’t take that long to chop an onion.
But when I’m down to the wire and I can just take three containers and dump all three into you know a
saute pan. That’s you know, a good chunk of time and I’m definitely more likely to take those so I feel like
chopping is really like just having all those those dishes in the refrigerator. Easy. Easy peasy. Grab those
and, and make her dinner.
Yeah, and speaking of shopping, I use my food processor so much for food prep, and it is me to super
helpful for vegetables because especially if you have little kids, you know pushing the buttons is like on a
blender on a food processor, super fun for kids. And if you’re wanting to get vegetables chopped, but you
they want to like be with you and you can’t really safely do it with a knife. Using your food processor one
is faster, and you can also involve them with it too. So food processor is like my savior in the kitchen.
Right? And
you know, I have a lot of gadgets in my kitchen. And I just I love gadgets in the kitchen and I have to say,
my food processor. And I’m surprised because when it when it was gifted to me, I didn’t realize just how

much I would use it. I use that, you know, multiple times a week. It’s crazy.
Yeah, yeah, me too. It’s It’s amazing. Yeah, definitely my most used also my most like worn thing in my
kitchen now too, because it gets used so much.
Well in my eight year old. Just another note on the meal prepping, she really likes salsa, but she likes her
salsa. And I don’t even really remember how we started making this but because she, you know, like I
said is very selective. We found that she likes to make this salsa which I’ll link up to it and also link up to
your if you have it somewhere the tin the muffin tin recipe. I’ll send you the link. And so she loves to
throw in like sweet peppers, tomato, onion, lime juice, garlic, salt, cilantro, and she’ll make a big batch of
it in the food processor. And I will send it in her lunch with like whole grain like tortilla chips or whatever
and show and I’m so excited. Like she’s getting all of these. Even as a selective eater. She’s getting all
these veggies into her system, you know with this salsa and she just devours it. So
that is so fun. Yeah, so cool.
We make a ton of that on Sundays.
Yeah, what I imagined that would be so tasty over like fish or chicken to
Oh, yes. I tried to keep it for her. But sometimes, you know, making that ahead on a busy weeknight. I’m
like, Oh, this is great topping. It’s going in Yeah,
yeah. Anything you can make in advance, like makes life so much easier. Yes.
Well, thank you so much, Heather, for joining us today. It’s been great to talk to you. I’m thinking after our
listeners have heard this. So there may be some more kids chefs out there whipping up their family
meals together after this episode. And I feel like your kids are going to start a restaurant someday so I
got to keep following you because yeah, I know that’s that’s a goal. there. So before we sign off, can you
tell listeners where they can find you?
Yeah, so the best place would be on my website at MAMA real food.com. And that I share about cooking
with kids. And you can find recipes that we love that are kid friendly. And then also my podcast, which is
fit mama real food radio. And I bring on lots of different guests to chat about real food, we also talk a ton
about movement, and then motherhood on that as well. And then I’m most found on Instagram, and my
handle is at FIT mama real food.
Wonderful. We’ll link up to all of those in the show notes. So if you’re listening, you can don’t have to
write them all down, you can easily pop over there and and get those links. But thank you so much other
for joining us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to chat again soon.
Oh, thank you so much, Amanda, this has been wonderful. And thank you for sharing all of this what
you’re doing for your listeners at produce for kids. You’re doing great things.
Hoping this episode has inspired you to maybe spend some time in the kitchen with your kids, whether
they be toddlers or teens any age. It’s such a great time to bond. And it really doesn’t matter if you’re a
chef status or you know, maybe you’re not totally comfortable in the kitchen, but that’s okay because

being in the kitchen with your family is a great opportunity to spend time together and learn together to
you know, you can you can master your skills as a team. Be sure to check out the show notes for links to
all the things we caught out in this episode. If you aren’t seeing something in the links, let us know. We’ll
also be sharing the watermelon salsa recipe, which you definitely must try. I feel like it will become a
family favorite in your house. And then mission for nutrition starts March 1. So bookmark the mission for
nutrition comm to download the free ebook so that you can plan out your meals, a lots of meal prep tips
there. And then you can also enter to win great weekly prizes starting March 1. So hoping you’ll join us
then on all of our social outlets, the month of March where we’ll be really focusing in on meal prep all
month long. And if you are meal prepping, we’d love to see your photos. Just use the hashtag mission for
nutrition. And we’ll be sure to repost and we can chat with you there. And if you want to tweet direct with
me, I’m at Amanda M Kiefer on Twitter. And then as always, you can find produce for kids on Facebook,
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Be sure to subscribe Talk soon