Dietitian suggests involving kids in food prep

Coots suggested allowing younger children to pull apart broccoli in lieu of using knives. (KRCG)

July is Fresh Produce Month, and health experts say washing, chopping, and storing fruits and veggies ahead of time can help encourage healthier choices at home.

In this week's Family First segment, KRCG 13 spoke with SSM Health Dietitian Denise Coots about the benefits of making food prep a family activity.

"Food prep does not have to be difficult," Coots said. "It doesn't even have to involve knives."

According to Coots, prepping fruits and vegetables in advance is more than just a straightforward time-saver - it's also a good way to get kids involved in making healthier choices in the kitchen. "They think it's fun, they think it's cool," she said. "It's a way for parents to say, "Hey, this is yummy!"

Here's some of her favorite ways to keep food prep safe for little ones: "Pick grapes off the stem, and have your kiddo put them in a container. Or with broccoli; if you can cut off the bottom, hand it to a child, and they can pull some of the pieces off."

As long as your kids are participating in some way, Coots said the effort of food prepping will likely pay off. "Getting your child involved as much as you can really increases the chance of them eating the produce, and makes it more familiar to them. Even if they don't want to try it, it increases their familiarity with that food product," she said.

Food prep doesn't just encourage kids to step outside their fresh produce comfort zone. It can also encourage grown ups to make smarter decisions in the kitchen. "Keeping your fruits and veggies in a see-through container in the fridge will also help remind you 'Hey, I'm not gonna have that candy bar, look I have a container of strawberries, I'm just going to reach into the fridge,'" Coots said.

Watch KRCG 13 next Friday at 5 p.m. for our next Family First segment. We'll talk with a health expert about another way to encourage kids to try fruits and vegetables they may not be as familiar with.

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