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Kids Cook: Vegetable Tuna Salad

I’m starting a new category in my blog, ‘Kids Cook.’ I often cook with my son. We love it. It’s such a great way to combine my values of healthy eating and caring for my family. We prepare healthy meals (and cookies too of course!), he learns about food, we laugh, we make a mess, and I think of it as quality time.

The goal of these posts is to encourage anyone around kids (parent, grandparent, caregiver, uncle, aunt, sitter, etc) to get them in the kitchen and help them make something healthy to eat. I truly believe that teaching kids to cook is the most important step in preventing childhood obesity and promoting healthy foods.

My kids are young: Khaled is 3.5 and Zayd is 1.5 (he’s still in training by playing with mixing bowls and wooden spoons), so our recipes are simple and require adult supervision all the time. If your kids are older, give them more freedom and use these posts to inspire you to make something more challenging for their age and skills.

How to get your child to eat something?

It was one of those days when Khaled wanted Gold Fish for lunch. My first thought was “heck no,” but since we’re in the phase where he has to make his own decisions, I had to approach this lunch dilemma with a bit of democracy.

And here’s my tip for parents:

“When you want your child to eat something, let him prepare it with you”

I decided to go for a tuna salad. He had tuna before and liked it, so I crossed my fingers hoping that he’d be in the mood for it today.

  • Nour: Khaled, how about we make tuna salad together? (enthusiastically)
  • Khaled: yes! (score!)

The ingredients were really what’s in my fridge and freezer. He likes corn and celery (thank you Wonder Pets!) but didn’t want purple cabbage.

So here’s my second tip for all parents:

“When you want your child to eat something, make him think it was his choice and his idea”

  • Khaled (while standing on the stool next to me and stirring the corn and tuna chunks): I don’t want purple cabbage. I don’t like it (whining)
  • Nour: ok, you don’t have to eat. You like celery like Wonder Pets, right?
  • Khaled: yes, only celery. No cabbage
  • Nour (acting as if I don’t care and chopping the celery and cabbage): ok, cabbage only for me.
  • Before I knew it, he took a small piece of the cabbage and tried it.
  • Khaled: mama, cabbage is good. I want cabbage too. (score!)

Now, does this happen every time we cook? Of course not. But it’s more likely to happen when he’s next to me watching and helping. If you don’t have the veggies I used, substitute with others in your house

A third tip to get your child to eat something new:

“Offer a new vegetable with a vegetable your child already likes”

Vegetable Tuna Salad

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 6-oz can chunk light tuna
  • 1 c frozen corn kernels
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1/2 c chopped red cabbage
  • 1-2 tsp mayonnaise
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried oregano, basil, or thyme (optional)

Kids Cook:

  1. Have your child measure 1 cup frozen corn and pour into medium-size microwaveable bowl. Have your child cover with water. Microwave for 1.5 minutes or until they’re no longer frozen. Drain.
  2. Help you child open the tuna can. Be careful of sharp edges, or alternatively, you do it. Have your child dump the tuna over the corn and flake with a fork.
  3. Chop the celery stalks and red cabbage. Let your child add them to the bowl. Watch the knife action.
  4. Let your child measure and add the mayonnaise.
  5. Cut the lemon in half. Let your child remove the seeds (they love doing that) and squeeze the juice over the salad. He won’t get enough juice out, so make sure you do.
  6. Season with salt and pepper (I suggest that you do that since kids have a habit of over-shaking!). Let him sprinkle dried herbs.
  7. Let your child mix all ingredients. Help as needed.
  8. Have your child taste it to make sure it’s seasoned right. Ask him if it needs more lemon juice, mayo, salt, pepper, etc. (You taste it too and make sure you don’t over-season)
  9. Eat with a fork or with some whole wheat bread or crackers

Did he actually like it:

Enjoying the photo shoot

Yes! He took several bites as we adjusted the taste and took pictures. He ate more from his bowl. He didn’t finish his bowl, but that’s ok. Their bellies are small and they know when they’ve had enough. Overall, I was satisfied. From Gold Fish for lunch to maybe 1/2 c of vegetable tuna salad, I’m happy.

Do you cook with your kids? If yes, what do you make? If no, would this post encourage you to do so?

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  • sherin April 24, 2012, 5:46 pm

    Great post Nour! I’ve had similar successes with my kiddos but once you have 3 little helpers, it’s difficult not to simply shoo them away until eating time! Kareem’s favorite thing to make with me is orange pancakes (pancakes with pumpkin or carrot puree). Of course, I have yet to figure out how to lessen the amounts of whipped cream and maple syrup that top these pancakes… Looking forward to more kid friendly recipes! šŸ™‚

    • Nour Zibdeh April 26, 2012, 2:23 pm

      Sherin you’re good about including the kids in cooking. You’re not the first one to say that once you have 3 it’s not as easy. I guess I’ll try to cook as much as possible with 2! Mmmm… would love some of those pancakes!

  • sherin April 24, 2012, 5:47 pm

    btw-Khaled is so cute mA!

  • sahar April 25, 2012, 2:07 am

    Definitely gonna try this with my little girl!
    Im so glad you gave us the details, i always wonder how exactly i should get my daughter to help! Waiting for more of those recipes šŸ™‚

    • Nour Zibdeh April 26, 2012, 9:45 pm

      Thanks Sahar. I’m glad you like the details, I wasn’t sure if it’s too much or not, so your comment really helps. I will be posting more of those!

  • ea-the spicy rd April 26, 2012, 2:03 pm

    Love the dialogue between you and your adorable son, and yes,absolutely I cook with my kids! Although, I have to admit its gets a little tricky finding enough time when they are both in the midst of a sports season. Love this recipe too-I’ll have to try it out with my kids šŸ™‚