Cooking with Kids: The Benefits of Making Food Memories

ham and cheese pinwheels

Dr. Forbes photo “Mom, what’s for lunch?” The next time your kids ask you what’s on the menu, turn the question around: “What would you like us to make?”

Cooking with your kids has many benefits, from practicing math concepts like counting, measurement, and fractions, to helping picky eaters engage other senses to become comfortable with new foods. Kneading dough, washing fresh vegetables, and peeling garlic all involve texture and smell in a way that promotes new flavors. I also like to emphasize “eating all of the colors of the rainbow” with my patients. This encourages young ones to explore the visually beautiful hues of fresh fruits and vegetables, which parents know offer diverse vitamins, nutrients and other essential health benefits. 

But perhaps the biggest benefit of cooking with your children is that it promotes a healthy lifestyle. Children are more likely to try new foods when they have grown or prepared them themselves, and helping your child know his way around the kitchen sets him up for a life of healthy eating.

Raising a child who enjoys bell peppers as much as pizza takes persistence, but the more joyful experiences with food that you create in the kitchen, the more likely your child is to have a positive association with healthy foods. Here’s a simple kid-pleaser to make at home with your young ones: ham-and-veggie pinwheels. Your children can help layer on the ingredients, and then oooh and aaah over how nice they look when sliced.

Ham and Veggie Pinwheelsham and cheese pinwheels
Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 4 eight-inch flour tortillas
  • 3/4 cup light cream cheese
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 large slices baked ham
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin

1. Arrange the tortillas on a cutting board. Spread each with about 3 tablespoons cream cheese, then top with cucumber, ham and tomato slices.

2. Roll up each tortilla, pressing down firmly as you go. Place wraps, seam side down, on a cutting board and cut each into 4 sections.

Per serving: 314 calories, 15 g fat (8 g saturated), 736 mg sodium, 51 mg cholesterol.