Cupcakes don’t count: teaching kids to cook

If there’s one message every parents needs to hear, it’s this: Teach your kids a few basic recipes to cook. Even if it’s one dish – their signature dish – make sure they know how to pull something healthy together that they can cook up, enjoy eating and survive on.

Yes, you can start getting them to roll little balls of dough to bake Anzac biscuits or mix things together in a bowl to create chocolate crackles. But when they move into their first student digs, that’s not a lot of help.

They need inexpensive filling recipes that they can pull together on a budget but will nourish and sustain them when you’re not around. Not so complicated that they’ll run a million miles nor so healthy that they’ll think you’ve turned raving alternative. But enough to give them nutrients to live on. Here’s a set of five healthy recipes to start them off on their culinary education.

1. Basic banana smoothie

Smoothies can hide a multitude of healthy ingredients from a splosh of fish oil for omega-3s, to oat bran for fibre, to egg yolk for extra protein. I like this Banana smoothie with its skim milk, bananas, honey, yoghurt plus a dash of cinnamon. It’s simple but can be a quick breakfast-on-the-run before uni or a light meal when there’s nothing else in the fridge. No child ever died of malnutrition by drinking a smoothie for dinner!

2. Something hot on bread

I can see the merit in this starter Ham toasties recipe because there’s a bit more to it than a standard toasted sandwich and the eggs boost the protein of the ham, cheese and bread. Yet it remains humble and infinitely adaptable.

3. French Toast

The next step up from a toasted sandwich is French toast where you dip your bread into beaten eggs before cooking it in a fry pan. This recipe is the basic version but you can add cheese, grilled bacon or a smear of honey to glam it up.

4. Salad

Salads – think no-cooking – are pretty easy to rustle up and nice for hot days. I love the lazy Nicoise idea of a quick Tuna and egg salad recipe because, let’s face it, fish is so expensive these days, yet here’s a bright way to get more omega-3 into their diet without a lot of fuss.

Or try this Easy BBQ chicken salad recipe as a starter to get them thinking about healthier options later on. I know this is not the most “nutritionally perfect” but it’s better than chicken nuggets, the next obvious chicken alternative.

5. Kids pasta recipe

You can’t beat pasta for value and nutrition so and this Easy pasta salad with tuna (again), sweetcorn and a squeeze of lemon is a great option. You know how popular four-ingredient recipes are, and this will prove it. If you have hungry boys, this is one they’ll love as it’s low GI and filling. Plus there’s the fibre from the corn and the fish protein from the tuna.

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