Liz Wolfe and Katie Kimball connect on the Kids Eat Real Food course, the ins & outs of teaching kids to cook (and what a 2 year old can do in the kitchen!), picky eating (and underlying causes), beige food, and talking to kids about nutrition without shame.
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Okay, tell me more. Tell me more about you and what you do and maybe you can help. Well, I stumbled into being like the mom who teaches kids to cook.
That that was never, I mean, if you had asked my teenage self or my college self, if I thought I would do anything with cooking professionally, that would’ve been so far out of my universe at the time. Uh, I never would’ve seen it coming. But I think as with many moms, like when I had my first baby, everything mattered, right?
Every bite mattered more, every lotion mattered more. And I really threw myself into learning about nutrition and, and healthy food and natural living. And I’m a teacher by, at, at heart, like I’m an educator. That’s, you know, I knew since I was in kindergarten that I’d be an elementary teacher and then I wasn’t.
I was being, I was a mom and I was learning to cook. And my teacher brain though, was always going, like, other moms probably need to learn what I’m learning and how could I help them do it with fewer stumbles. And bumps than I was experiencing. So I, I started online in 2009 teaching families how to stay healthy without going crazy.
Like how do you watch your budget, your time, your family’s nutrition and synergize all of that without feeling like you’re stretched to your last nerve? And through that, I think the story I heard over and over from, from my generation, from moms was, Gosh, Katie, it is so hard to get healthy. Cause I was never taught to cook myself.
Right. I was not. Yes. My mom jokes still about how we used to eat dinner on the eating blanket and she would give us popcorn and oatmeal on the eating blanket. You had an eating blanket, , Does everyone not have an eating blanket? Is that not a thing? I’d have to, I’d have to search that up. . I don’t think so.
It was the eighties. You know, anything, anything goes That’s too funny. Yeah. So, but it ma it does make it really difficult as an adult to like get our act together in the kitchen. Especially if you make the decision to cook real food. And, um, so, you know, I, I was seeing in my own kids, my own kids were sort of moving through later elementary school at that time, and, and I, I realized that they didn’t really know their way around the kitchen.
Well, even though I’d been teaching adults to cook for like seven or eight years, and I knew that other moms and dads were not teaching their kids to cook. And I thought, Well, what? Like, this is never going to end. Every generation will say, Well, I was never taught to cook. This is really hard. So as a mom and a and a teacher, I just wanted to step into that gap and kind of approach the root cause of kids don’t know how to cook, How can I make that easier for families?
So that’s, you know, we, we just jumped in and created a skills-based course to teach kids to cook, and it’s been amazing working with families all over the world and just hearing their stories of the impact of their kids learning to. So how do you convince a kid that has no interest to learn to cook? Is some, is some level of prior interest, like a prerequisite for being able to teach this skill?
I don’t, I don’t think we have that in my house. Okay. I mean, a lot of kids before age five are interested in doing anything that is bigger than them, you know, that big kids do or that adults do. So that before age five is a really nice time to capture some of that intrinsic motivation. But I, I don’t think that it is impossible to teach kids to cook who have no interest.
Right. Like, my kids have no interest in laundry or cleaning toilets, but dog on it. They are not turning 18 and leaving my house before they know those skills. Right. So it’s, it’s, You might have more, Your work cut out for me more than you think. Actually, your work cut out for you with me . Oh, that’s fun. Um, I, You know what though?
Kids do take pride in a job well, And we can throw around participation awards and gold stars all we want. They know they’re fake, right? They’re onto us. But the feeling of seeing an adult, particularly eat something that you have made as a child, be, you know, as a kid, to be able to nourish someone and, and participate in this clearly critical act to human life, right?
It’s so, it’s just so powerful. So honestly, step one is figure out how to get them involved once and then make sure that as many people as possible, eat whatever they make right? Have the grandparents over go to a potluck, and that that confidence builds, they feel good about that. And that kind of rolls into some motivat.
Can you walk me through this process with a fictional child, approximately seven years of age? Uhhuh. Yeah. And just lemme know what it might look like is, are things like prioritizing family dinners or what about the family environment needs to change to be conducive to all of this? What does this process look like?
There’s definitely an aspect of family responsibility that I think is important when you’re getting the kids in the kitchen, you know, this sort of philosophy of everyone eats, everyone should participate right in the creation of the food in some way. Um, and that, and that everyone deserves accolades when they do a good job, but those accolades don’t have to be, again, a gold star or the words, good job.
Mm-hmm. , it just, it feels good to serve. So in my family, we definitely live by the philosophy of serving others and that we are not only expected to do that, but we are grateful when people serve us, right? So we always think whoever made the meal. Especially if it’s a kid. I don’t, they probably don’t really thank me all that often, but actually, but sometimes they do because we’ve created a culture of gratitude, of acknowledging that someone worked really hard on this food and that they deserve our gratitude.
So do you know, do you have to change the family culture? Should everyone be eating family dinners? Yes, because research says that family dinners are one of the strongest protective factors against your kids when they are tweens and teens getting their protection against getting into drugs and alcohol, falling into depression and suicidal tendencies.
Like the family dinner, the benefits start at two per week. That’s all. So if you are not eating family dinner at all, set a goal of two because that’s where the research backed benefits start. Obviously five, six and seven is better , right? Like more, More is better. But, but even if you can just do two family dinners, a.
and you can start to get the kids involved. It doesn’t have to be big. So let’s take this fictional seven year old. If, if I wanna get, Is it a fictional boy or a fictional girl? . It’s a fictional, It’s a fictional girl. Mm-hmm. . It’s a fictional girl. Okay. Mm-hmm. . So I, I might teach her one simple skill, like measuring a flat teaspoon and say, Hey, you know, I need five minutes of your time.
My recipe today has a REO and salt and basil or whatever, Right? And then have that child measure out the ingredients. And this would be like, this is kind of for young children stepping in under probably. And then when you get to dinner that, you know, the child’s only inputted five minutes of effort into this, but you can say, Oh my gosh.
Oh, this food is so good, huh? Who is responsible for the seasoning and this food? Right? And just try to build up that child. Um, for certain personalities, a little bit of danger is a great motivator. So, knives, knives, fire, right? Working at the stove. And so dangling that carrot can be really helpful for certain personalities.
Hey, would you, I, I’ve, I’ve heard of seven year olds who are using, uh, chef’s knives. Would you be interested in learning to use a sharp knife? You don’t start with a chef’s knife. Ps you start with the pairing knife and small, like for a seven year old, I would say a pairing knife in a cucumber or a zucchini is perfect, right?
Cucumbers and zucchinis are long. They can keep their non-dominant hand far away from the knife, but they also, that medium density where it’s, it’s easy to cut through and so it reduces the risk of failure. So can we talk a little bit about safety? I’m sure that you tackled this and have tackled this, you know, ad nauseum, but what about safety?
What about, I just the other day, my, my daughter was dying to cut her own apple. My mom was over at our house and just got this look of just horrified look when I handed her the knife and said, Just keep your fingers away from it, . So how do you ensure that kids are as safe as they can possibly be with these, you know, fire and, and pointy pieces of metal?
Let’s start if we can, by standing on some common ground that the world is not safe, never will be safe. And we can’t keep our kids completely, entirely safe, right? Like we still drive them in cars even though we know that’s a risk. So I think we, we gotta start from that position that sometimes bad things will happen, but we can mitigate those risks.
Very, you know, to the point where the bad things that might happen in the kitchen with knives and fire are going to be very minor and going to be an opportunity for teaching and for recovery. So we’ll start there. I teach with humor and I teach with, with silly fun phrases. And so we teach, uh, three ways to hold the food, four ways to hold the knife.
Things like up and over soldier, we’d say, Put your hand, Hey, hey, out of the way. That’s like for the zuc came, or the cucumber. And so number one, it’s, it’s fun, it’s repetitive, it’s a common vocabulary for parent and child. So I can peek over at my kid cutting aroma tomato and say, Oh, hey honey, use a saw blade instead of a, you know, ro rockabey baby cut.
And that way I can redirect if they’re doing something a little. When we talk about fingers and knives, , I sort of tell the story of, you know, like, you want this knife to cut your food. Don’t want it to cut your fingers. But if you’re putting your fingers and thumbs in certain places, it’s like the finger is saying, Pick me, pick me, cut me off.
I wanna be cut. Right? And kids are just like, You are ridiculous, Mrs. Kimble, but , that’s okay cuz ridiculous nuts sells for kids, right? And so now once you kind of share that story, you know, if your finger is laying flat and it’s pointing toward the knife, it’s saying, Pick me. Pick me. And you can glance over at a child who’s holding their hand and you know, an unsafe direction.
And just say that, that phrase, Pick me, pick me. And they go, Ugh, roll their eyes. Oh yeah, good point. And they fix it. Yeah. So you’re not, you know, doing what you do all day long, which is, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Be careful, be careful. That type of thing. That makes total sense. Right, Exactly. Well, so kids are sometimes afraid.
Of the stove. We’ve got lots of members in our kids cook real food e-course, where parents will say, You know, Katie, my, my daughter’s really nervous about working at the stove. And I’m not sure if we’re go like, I’m not sure how we’re gonna do with lesson five. Mm-hmm. , I see the stove coming, You know. But what we do is we just start, we start in a really safe place and we work with the stove for as long as the child needs cold off, right?
So the first thing they do is like a game of where what’s hot and what’s not. Everything is off, everything is cold, but you let them touch different parts and say, What if the, the fire is on right? If the heat is on what’s hot, what’s not, here are some places you would not want to put your hands. Here’s a place you can always put your hands.
So I tell kids, if you don’t know what to do with your hands, just hold the, like, the handle on the oven, Put your hands there and let them rest. It’s always a safe, you know, cool place. And so once kids have worked with, A cold stove top or they’ll, they’ll practice putting cookie sheets and casserole dishes in and out of an oven that is off with oven, MITs, you know, they do the whole thing with no heat.
Once they’ve practiced that, almost a hundred percent of kids are like, Oh, okay. I can, I can do this. This is okay. You know, so we just teach the safety in a serious, yet jovial manner, and then they, they know that they’ve been given a great responsibility and kids really do take that seriously. So what are the big challenges you see in this process?
Do people, I don’t know, is, is there an issue with keeping kids engaged? Do you end up having certain personality types kind of fall off? I guess I’ve interrupted the fictional seven year old, the process of the fictional seven year old getting her cooking. But I’m just curious, you know, my mind is going all over the place.
Like, well, that’s, then she’s just gonna say this, or then she’s gonna, you know, lose interest and wanna go do that, or whatever it may be. What, what are you finding are the biggest challenges to keeping kids engaged with this? Yeah, totally valid question. I would say, honestly, that about 20% of the problems in keeping kids in the kitchen are the kids.
80% are the parents. So we can start with the kids though. I mean, you’re, you’re dead on What we hear most of all from the parents in my community is my, my kid is, is getting bored. They’re wandering off, they’re just done. Or, but I wanna do it their way and, you know, crack an entire egg in the bowl. Like literally put the egg in the bowl, crack the whole thing, and then cook this mom.
Yeah. The, the strong willed child is, is a tricky one, but I really don’t hear that story very often. And I think it’s because, again, people in my community, they’re watching the video of me and I say, Mrs. Kimble can be the scapegoat. So you say to your kid, Well, Mrs. Kimble says, you know, or remember the technique.
Because when they, when they’ve been taught a really specific intentional technique, they see that it. They generally use it. We, I hear more of the strong-willed kids stories with, um, Katie, My kid wants to make up their own recipe and it’s crazy. Yes. And they’re wasting my food. Yes. That one’s, that one’s a big deal.
But what, But I do teach parents like how to sort of create some boundaries and give the child very small portions of food to experiment with. So there’s far less to waste. But let that, you gotta let ’em play a little bit. You gotta let them have an artist’s canvas in the kitchen so that they build their comfort level.
They build their confidence and that keeps them coming back. You know, if they’re a creative kid and they wanna use their creativity and you say no, they’re like, fine, I’m done with the kitchen. Um, so we do have to let them play, you know, a little bit to, to our stress tolerance. But that’s where I, most of the problems with getting kids in the kitchen is our roadblocks as adults.
So what kind of roadblocks do adults come to the kitchen with? Yeah. My kids are too messy. My kids are too slow. Mm-hmm. , the kitchen is my happy place. I don’t want them there. Um, I don’t, I don’t have that third one. That’s not . I don’t have that problem. No. Yeah. None. They’re, none of them are all universal problems.
But, but I do hear those a lot. Or I don’t know. I don’t know where to start. I’m not comfortable in the kitchen myself. How the heck am I gonna teach someone else to do this? Like, I’m barely skating by here. Um, so all of those, all of those roadblocks can really get in the way, and the only way through them is to keep our motivation really high is why do we want our kids to cook?
It’s not just because it’s an item on the list that we need to check off. You know, if it is then too slow, too messy. I don’t want kids in my space though. All those roadblocks are gonna get in the way. So the motivation is future casting as we gotta think. What kind of adult do we want to launch into the world, right?
Do we want them to be capable, confident, able to independently keep up the good health habits that we’ve built, Right? Like if people in your audience, you’re eating real food, right? Liz? Real food. Yeah. We want always all the time with not without fail, 100% of compliance at all times. Real food. Yes.
Continue . Yeah. Oh yeah, totally. Well, okay, so I mean, at least we have our best intentions, right? Right, right. . But, but I think that those of us who have chosen a healthy eating path, like we want that for our kids. Yeah, for sure. And so how, how are they gonna do it? If we are the ones who know how to cook for them and they don’t, like, I’m not following my kid to college next year.
Not happening . Right. So that’s like, I might, I might follow my kid to college. You might, Well then they will never have to learn to cut their meat and you’re good to go. Don’t teach them anything . But no. So, so motivation one for me is the future casting. How are they going to be healthy, independent adults?
It starts now whether they’re two or 12. And, and then number two also is, We work hard. Moms work really hard and we spend a lot of time if, if you’re cooking from scratch in the kitchen. And so it is both a help to you, the adult, it’s a help to the family and it’s a help to the kids to have responsibilities.
And I just see so much value in that, right? In making kids members, productive members of the family so that yes, they will become productive members of society after they’re 18, but they, they don’t have to wait until they’re, it’s not like the leaders of tomorrow, whatever, whatever. Like they are the people.
They’re small people, right? But they’re the people of today who live in a household who consume food and should absolutely be given responsibilities in the house. So that’s my motivation and that keeps me going even when it’s hard and my own psychology throws up road. Sure. Well, it does make sense to me that the home is sort of a laboratory for a lot of this stuff.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading around the influence on the family, on children, and kind of where the, the transmission of culture is occurring and that it’s right now, you know, we have a conundrum where the transmission of culture is happening sort of horizontally, peer tope rather than vertically through the family.
And, um, I’m not very far into this book, but the book, um, Hold Onto Your Kids is one that I’ve been reading. And it all makes sense that even though we have this limited amount of time with our kids, I’ve been looking at and thinking about what that time is, how that time is constructed, and what it’s comprised of in my household.
And oftentimes it’s just like, and this is a challenge a lot of the time we have, It’s like once school is done and once practices are done, we get home and it’s just like we’re decompressing from school until bedtime. Trying to orient that time more toward productive activities to, you know, potentially foster connection might actually make some of that decompression time less necessary.
I don’t know, this is my hope, but that’s kind of where I’m at right now, where I’m trying to figure out what to do with that time that we have and to make it as productive of as possible. And it makes sense. You know, maybe this is a little, a little out there, a little silly, but this idea that they’ll parable teaching Amanda to fish versus, you know, fishing for him, like for the most part, I think the primary parents end up fishing for their kids.
Mm-hmm. because it is easier, maybe not easier in the long run, but I certainly have been doing the fishing lately and it might, you know, be time that I actually do a little bit of teaching how to fish. I. Oh, I love that vision of the horizontal culture transmission versus the vertical. Clearly we prefer the vertical.
Yeah. Cause in that’s instance, we’re at the top and our kids get to learn what we value. Um, so important and honestly, I always tell parents that the kitchen is the best educational field to transmit anything you want your kids to learn. You want ’em to have a sense of humor. You want ’em to be a loyal friend.
You want ’em to have the heart of a servant, that the kitchen is everything. And you talk more when you’re working together. Like that’s when the conversations happen, right? The screens are off, there’s no eye contact to make the child nervous and overwhelmed. Um, and, and the stories tend to come out, particularly because you’re working with your hands.
And that actually, like brain science wise, opens up the creative spaces in your brain and opens up the storytelling. So when your kids are needing dough, or stirring things or cutting stuff up, they’re truly more like, To share their stories. So that’s a, that’s a pretty hot tip for parents who say, Ugh.
I’d say, What, How was your day? Fine. What’d you learn? Nothing. Right. like, use the key of knife skills of baking together to really connect on that level. So, so, so good. So how much more preparation is this on the parent’s part to foster this type of environment in the house initially? Obviously it’s more work, like you said, it’s quicker and easier to fish to do the fishing for the kids or to order the fish from door to Yeah, yeah, yeah.
No, totally , totally. It’s less expensive to cook for yourself though, obviously, right? It, It is an initial effort. There’s, there’s sort of a snowball momentum where the more skills you build, right? Like I see cooking as a big collection of skills as opposed to a collection of recipes. So if your kid knows how to work safely at the stove, handle a pairing knife, measure a flat teaspoon, right now, what, what can we do with those three skills, four skills, five skills?
And so, so there is definitely a momentum, like the getting started is the hardest. The confidence that the kids build helps like propel them forward and bring them back into the kitchen. The skills they build help them then give back to you, right? So I’ll tell parents, yeah, the first time that you work on knife skills, it’s extra time.
It’s an extra thing in your schedule. However, second, third, fourth, and fifth time, you’re getting time back. Mm-hmm. , you know, as soon as the child has some level of competence, you immediately get that time back. And so you talked about I wanna do productive things with my time. Oh, but who has, who has the time and their schedule to add something in?
Right? So how do you be productive with your kids and spend that deep connection time? It’s integrating them into what you are already doing, which, you know, for those of us who cook and eat real food most, or some of the time, we’re spending some time in the kitchen already. So why not invite them in and, and help it to be both productive and quality time and not something new to add to your schedule.
Um, it, here’s, so this is what can motivate you, Liz. I do not cook dinner on Thursdays. My two older kids are 17 and 14 and they have cooked dinner once a week since they were nine and 12. Wow. Oh, doing the math. That’s five years for me. of one meal a week that I do not have to meal plan or cook. Okay. My child number three is 11, and so he’s at sous chef level.
Which means at least once a week, I do not have to cut the vegetables. You know, he makes all of our dressings, we do, we do homemade dressings 90% of the time. And when the bottle is empty, that’s on his plate for the next couple days. And you know, again, yes, I had to train him in that. Yes. It doesn’t always go perfectly when we say, Hey, John, looks like the dressing’s empty.
Make sure you plan that in the next few days. He doesn’t always say, Okay mother, I will happily do that. Right, Right. Like, that is not reality. So yes, there’s some pain, but there’s so much reward and it’s so amazing to know that, you know, I’ve got a 17 year old senior in high school who can plan and cook entire meals with ease.
Whatever he does next year, he’s, he’s, it’s not gonna be a problem. Like, he understands how to start the meal with a salad and vegetables and cut those vegetables up and make meals that are balanced, you know, So it’s, uh, it’s a beautiful thing at the end, well worth the investment. Okay. I have to ask this question because in the back of my head I always, there’s little person always screaming at me, just homeschool and then you will have time to do all of these things.
Are you a homeschool person? Do I have to homeschool to fit this stuff in? No, ma’am. Nope. We are public. We’re a public school family and my kids are, some of them are in sports. Not all. I mean, we, so we’ve got some sports right now. Two of my kids are in the play. They’re at play practice three ti four times a week for two hours, like they’re in dance.
We’re a normal hot mess, full schedule. Family, , , and yeah. So here’s where to find the time. Do not teach your kids to cook right before dinner. That’s when they ask. Right. Okay. That’s when it seems to make sense. That’s when they should practice the skills they’ve already learned. But the very first time you teach a skill right before dinner is a recipe for failure.
Because you’re stressed, you have a time limit. Right. And you’re gonna push them and then they’re gonna feel that stress and they’re not gonna have a positive experience in the kitchen. Right? So the best time I think, to teach a new skill is after like an after school snack on the weekend. Again, feed them first cuz then they’re happy.
Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm . It’s so right after lunch, right after breakfast on a weekend, right after snack on a weekday. Um, and just prepare food for whenever. Like you don’t have to eat what you prepare right away if they’ve already eaten. So that’s, that’s when I kind of like to introduce a new skill or like teach, if you’re in the kids cook real food eCourses.
Right? That’s when you would flip on one of our videos and teach the skill. And then on the repetition part of the story, when they’re practicing now you can invite them into the kitchen, you know, and use that common vocabulary, Hey, you need to use this hold or that hold on the knife. They’re not gonna slow you down at that point because they need less supervision.
I think we might have connected over a real idea about if you wanna, your kids to hate cooking as much as you do. And one of them was like, be outwardly angry at all times. Like, , just be very clear about how much you hate it. I think that’s what we connected over, which was only like partly sarcasm. But what I’m curious now about is what are those first skills you teach a kid that has almo?
Well, my seven year old thinks she already knows how to do everything, You know, so she’s, she already knows all of this. But for my benefit, what are those first foundational skills that you teach kids that builds the foundation of getting them more confident and more excited about being in the kitchen?
We start with measuring and stirring. Stirring is a skill. We teach five different ways to stir. All with cute names like Pogo Stick and Merry Around. Mm-hmm. . Um, and for, for our, It’s different for what age, right? So if we’re talking like six and under, we’re gonna do spreading, right? Spreading like peanut butter on bread with a butter knife.
We’re gonna work with. Dull knife skills, butter knife, and a banana, et cetera. Um, we’re gonna teach ’em how to wash, produce, how to tear lettuce, us things that really use their small motor skills, which they’re trying to develop at that preschool age, but also help them to really feel involved and have fun, right?
Like they’re making a, an impact on dinner, no matter how small, as soon as a kid can read the game changes, okay? Cuz now we need to teach the skill of reading and following a recipe. I wanna get those kids who are about age seven and up to the stove and, and there at the stove. Now you can teach things like cooking rice, boiling water for pasta, potatoes, or hard builded eggs.
Uh, the skill of flipping is actually it. That’s a thing, right? Flipping pancakes, flipping grapes, flipping burgers. Um, and again, and so that’s why I like teaching skills versus a recipe. Like you could teach a kid to make pancakes, for example, and they’re gonna know how to make one recipe and how to understand that, how that recipe looks.
But I would so much rather teach kids. How do you measure, how do you stir, How do you crack an egg that’s in there? Um, we teach egg cracking pretty young because we do it in a fun way. Mm-hmm. , you know, how do you whatever, use the oven like so muffins or pancakes, we break it down into skills and now kids can apply those skills to so many recipes.
So that’s where I would start. Probably if you’re a parent just doing this on your own without the help of my class, I would say think of a favorite recipe that that child loves to eat and figure out one of the building black skills that is involved in that recipe and teach them that skill first so that they can be involved in a recipe that they already love the outcome of.
And then you can continue to build, you know, these little building blocks until they can make the whole thing. What is your protocol for messes? I’m curious about that because when I cook, I make enough of a mess. When I involve the other ones in there, it is absolute like kitchen. Explosion. So are there any tactics that you use or is it just like, deal with it when you’re done?
Don’t worry about that. Yeah, my protocol is yell, scream, cry and complain. What’s yours? . Oh, perfect. Yeah, that sounds about, Yeah, that sounds about right. Yeah. Um, I don’t have a great, like, cleaning up is not my gift. then just remaining clean and not spilling flour all over when I bake. So I guess personally I have empathy for kids.
Um, for me it’s not motivating for kids to have to clean up when they cook, right? So in our family, the rule is if you cook, you don’t clean up. Mm-hmm. , right? So I teach the cleanup, like if I’m gonna cook now, they have to learn to clean up. So I think that creates empathy for them, right? So if I make a big, huge mess and use 57 dishes, they’re like, Oh, maybe when I cook I can not make a, you know, make a medium size mess for mom to clean up.
Right. It’s just, it’s a skill you hone over time. Mm-hmm. . It is, and one thing, I probably shouldn’t say this, this is probably way, way wrong in the school of child psychology, but there are times when I have told my daughter, Just don’t think about it. Just think about that later. You know? And maybe that’s the, the approach that I can take to messes where it’s just like, you know what, think about that later.
It’s, it’s not relevant to what we’re doing currently. It’s just gonna make it worse, so just don’t think about it. Mm-hmm. , it’s, it’s a lot of getting over it ourselves, you know? And sometimes I do roll my eyes and say, and discuss like, ah, don’t, don’t set the knife covered in coconut oil on the counter.
Right, Right. You know, like, I definitely am not perfect. Um, but better. It would be better to say, Hey honey, when you wipe the counter, What, what do you, what’s your plan for that coconut oil. Cuz I think it’s gonna be hard to not smear it all over, you know, like, obviously like if we can ask questions, we’re better teachers in the moment.
Do I always remember that? No , but we can try the next time. Right. Did you, this is a personal question, but in your own house, has this journey developed any peripheral sets of values that have also been important to your family? Whether that be like consistency, like doing something repeatedly to ensure that it sticks?
What else has this done for your family dynamic that is positive? Oh, so many things. I, I don’t think this is a personal question, Partly because I see the benefits in my own family reflected in our community. You know, when other families do this, it’s it that you, your results will mimic mine in some way.
What do we see? Um, we see a value placed on healthy eating and. There’s a little bit of a, for us at least, because we eat healthy and the rest of the world, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, doesn’t most of the time, you know, my lunches do not look like other kids’ lunches. So the fact that, that we’ve put our stake in the ground and said, this is how we eat as a family, that really has created a family culture of this is why we eat the way we eat.
This is why we’re different than the other kids. You know, if kids tease you for your lunch, um, here are some things you can say. So a, any involvement in the process is gonna give them more ownership. Ownership in and of itself, and responsibility are huge. And confidence really, when, when a kid can do something that they know, I mean, this is like necessary to sustain life, right?
So it’s kind of a critical act and they know that this is what adults do. Adults cook and feed people. Oh my gosh. Like, it just increases their confidence so much. And I see it particularly in my daughter, Leah’s 14, she’s a freshman and you know, I, she just survived middle. Ooh. We weren’t, we weren’t sure we’d get her through that, but Yeah.
That’s tough. We are, If we can get her through high school, she’s gonna be an amazing human being. You just gotta survive . Um, no. She is an amazing human being now, But, but you see, I mean, middle school takes the hits on the confidence. Yes. And because she can be so competent in the kitchen. Right. But well above and beyond her peer group, I really do think that that has allowed her to be more confident in the classroom, more confident socially, more confident in band.
Um, it just like, confidence isn’t location specific. Right. Right. And so that’s, that’s huge. Yeah. In that confidence is it, is the top benefit that our community chooses. When I ask him, like, Well, what do you see? What do you see cooking doing for your family? Confidence is number one. Yeah. Oh man. Middle school, I, ugh.
I do remember one thing, and middle school was so rough for me. I begged. Begged my parents to send me to boarding school after seventh grade because it was so hard and they actually did, and it was wonderful. Which is a whole story for another time. And but it’s so, it is so hard. But I do remember we actually had a home economics class in middle school.
I think it was called Facts, Family and Consumer Sciences or something like that. And that is long gone by my understanding. But even then, the only things we learned were how to make a pillow case. And I remember how to cook and drain. Drain, all that unhealthy fat off of ground beef. Right. That’s amazing.
Yeah, I was just telling, Yeah, I was just telling my daughter about my home ec class in seventh. Because she, she’s working with sourdough right now. She’s tried like five new sourdough recipes in the last week and she said, Oh, I got one for soft pretzels. You know those like soft pretzel things? I said, Oh yeah, I learned to make soft pretzels in seventh grade home ec.
But we started with frozen bread dough , you know? Right. So she looks at me, she rolls her eyes, she’s like, Gosh, mom, you gotta be kidding me. Like, what is that? So one of the things that’s interesting about this process is the way so many people in our community, the, I don’t know, online food and wellness community, have been grappling with the ideas of body positivity, body neutrality, food neutrality.
I’ve heard people say on social media that they’re having a dialogue with their kids and basically saying that there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy food. And that doesn’t quite sit well with me. I think that there’s a dialogue that needs to be had with children that is based around the truth of how certain things work in the body.
And we can separate shame from that. We can separate fear from that. And this feels like, and you can comment on that however you like once I’m done rambling, but this whole process around teaching kids how to cook, what comes to mind? When you are cooking, you’re not making Oreos. You can’t do that. That requires a factory and a lot of inputs that are industrial.
So when you’re cooking food, there’s a limit to the types of ingredients that you can use to create something. So, I would imagine that that in and of itself develops an appreciation for maybe not always real food. I mean, you can make cookies, you can make cakes. All of that stuff is fun. Pancakes, pasta, what have you.
But at the very least of realization of what can actually be done with your own hands and what maybe falls into the category of food versus things that really are not makeable at home. They’re not obtainable anywhere besides a store after a long, you know, laundry list of factory inputs. So perhaps it’s teaching those lessons without actually having to harp on this is healthy, this isn’t healthy.
Well, how does your body feel? You know, I, I bet little Timmy’s, but because it gets complicated, man, when their friends are eating certain things and you’re not. And sometimes, you know, I slip up and I’m like, Well, we make different choices in our family. Or I’ll say, Well, that’s just not. Healthy. And then I think to myself, well now she’s gonna run off and tell her friends so and so that they’re not healthy and whatever.
You know? So you have to be so careful about how you structure those conversations. There’s a lot of, um, landmines in those conversations, but this seems like a way to get at it without actually having to, you know, accidentally pass judgment on somebody else. Mm. So much Well said in your ramble . Um, I’m really, I’m glad we’re on the same page cuz you could see me cringing.
The listeners couldn’t see me cringe when you talked about the No, there are no healthy or unhealthy foods. I’m like, Oh man, I just, I I love the idea, right? I love the idea that we’re not gonna demonize foods and classify them as good or bad. However, it doesn’t feel rooted in fact or logic quite strongly enough.
Yeah. Right. Because, because the fact is many adults right now are experiencing chronic diseases. Very much rooted in how they ate as children. Sure. Right. That’s a fact. Yeah. People change their diets. Um, my husband had Crohn’s disease. It is off his chart. We attribute that to lifestyle and diet. Don’t tell me food doesn’t matter and that all the foods are equal on the scale.
So yeah. So how do, Yeah. How do we do that with kids? They’re gonna ask, especially as they reach that age of logic. My youngest is seven, almost eight. And um, you could feel him click into the cognitive like phase of being able to use his logic. It was amazing. He, all of a sudden, within the span of a few months, started asking all these more high level questions.
What is the healthiest food? You know? And he would ask Google . We were like, But Google’s not always exactly right. You know, you gotta teach that critical thinking and that question asking, but yes, making your own. Definitely creates a space with fewer land binds to structure those conversations. I totally agree.
We, you know, my kids have gotten to see my husband model, uh, the inspiration for what can we make at home, Right? So commercial came on during a football game, and it was probably Taco Bell. I don’t know. It was some sort of Mexican food and all the string cheese and you know, the way that the food marketers make you salivate.
Yes. And he said, that looks really good, but I bet if I bought it at Taco Bell, I would not feel that good afterward. He said, I think I could make that right. So he just like reverse engineered it. And he’s not a, he’s not a great cook. He will, I’m not picking on him, he will tell you that himself, but he reverse engineered it and it was like a 10 plus meal.
Like, the kids loved it. He loved it. And it was such a great touch point as a family to say, We have the ability, Right. It is in our power, it is in our hands. Like a light saver, like whoop. We could see something that was made in a factory fast food process and say, Can we make that ourselves? Let’s try. Oh my goodness.
Like what an amazing way to empower kids to think out of that box. Think out of the bag, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. What about, what about picky eaters? I wanna talk a little bit more about that because I, so I started out with my first, I have two, two girls with my first, it was so easy cuz we were living on a farm and it was like liver worst bra, schweiger, you know, broth.
And it, it was just easy. She just ate what I gave her. Well now I have a seven year old and a two year old. The seven year old, you know, she’s in school, she’s in soccer, she see. So we have a lot more beige foods that have made their way into our rotation, a lot more snacks. And I sort of circumvented the snacks around healthy thing by saying snacks involve too much packaging and it’s not healthy for the earth.
So we need to, you know, reduce our, our packaging, throwing what we’re throwing away on a day to day basis. But the two year old then sees that and so the two year old has had more beige foods in her life than certainly my seven year old had by that age. So I don’t know that I would classify my kids as picky other than maybe myself as overwhelmed and mentally blocked around the topic.
But if we were to identify my children as picky, what advice would you give me around that picky eating’s? A big epidemic. It really is. Um, and I, I, there are a lot of reasons for that. We don’t have to, we don’t have to talk about root cause, but I guarantee many people listening right now are like, This is me.
I got a pick eater. They are not gonna eat any of the foods that Liz just listed, like ever. Yeah. Yep. It’s all beige. It’s all packaged. We’re in trouble. And so, what would I say to parents of picky eaters? It’s hard. You go down that road, it’s hard to come back. It is. You know what, the first thing that has to be said is no guilt, no shame.
You did not create your picky eater. We gotta start there. Uh, research says that parenting styles actually has no impact on picky eating, which was, which is really surprising to. Um, p most picky eating is actually physiological. It’s in the child’s body. It can be an undiagnosed food sensitivity. It can be, um, an inability to chew or swallow correctly, which sometimes is because of things like baby food pouches and, you know, even baby led weaning can sometimes cause picky eating, which is such a bummer cuz that seems like such a natural and beautiful way.
Ooh, can you pause on that for a second? I know people are going out here a little bit more about that. Tell me more about that. Sure. So the, the steps to eating there are 32 steps to eating and it includes gaining the ability to move a puree from the front of the, your tongue to the back of your tongue and swallow it.
And so if a child skips pures, they go right from, you know, a liquid formula or breast milk to the chunky stuff. Sometimes that can actually cause their swallow or, um, like their tongue musculature. To be underdeveloped. Mm. Which, which can sometimes cause like that affinity for really soft foods, you know, or pre chew meat, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, that’s not, that’s pre chewed meat.
I guess ancestrally, we kind of have an idea at this point that there.
There was like that, that maybe step between, um, breastfeeding and like solid, solid foods where parents were actually pre chewing food for their children. Right. And that would kind of be that puree step maybe. Yes. Yeah, it would be. And and you’re right. I mean, and that sounds to us, you know, in our modern, civilized, very clean culture that sounds a little icky, that parents would preach, chew the food, but necessary Right.
And appropriate for an under one year old, or maybe between one and two, our kids who are seven, eight, and nine and teenagers not, should not have an affinity for pre chewed meat. Mm-hmm. like chicken nuggets and hot dogs only. Um, so that the, the physiological root cause in some of these picky eating situations is actually like an oral motor deficiency where because perhaps they missed a step or because of some other reason, their tongue just doesn’t have the muscle strength or their swallow.
Isn’t working as well as it needs to be. You would never look at a picky eater and say, Oh, maybe they’re having trouble chewing and swallowing. Mm-hmm. . So this is, it’s very mind opening for parents to think, you know, maybe, maybe their tummy hurts a little bit every time they eat wheat and we wheat at every meal.
And I just don’t realize that. And the fact that they are rejecting foods is their physiology saying mm-hmm , uh, this might not be good for you. Um, so there’s lots and lots of root causes for picky eating. Most are physiological parenting strategies can exacerbate what’s already there. But you like an overreliance on convenience foods, basically.
Yeah. And you know, if we, if we give the kids only what they want, Right, Right. We’re probably gonna be pushing the ball in the wrong direction. So the good news is that means parenting strategies can impact picky eating in a positive direction. But we, we do wanna think about those root causes. Um, I have a, I have a TEDx talk called picky eating isn’t about the food.
And so guys, if you have a picky eater like it’s 15 minutes long or something like that, go watch that. Because I talk about the five Ps of piy eating pallet, pain processing, that’s all pH physiological. And then pressure and power are our parenting issues. Um, but we wanna make sure that we’re addressing our kids’ root cause of piy eating first.
And really at the same time synergistically creating an environment where kids can approach food with curiosity instead of fear, where they know they’re not going to be forced to eat anything that is a power struggle that nobody wins. So really, really important to give our kids agency and choice at the table, but our choice is what is served.
Right. Mm-hmm. . And so we can’t, if we serve mac and cheese every night, guess what? You’re gonna have a kid who only eats mac and cheese. And then we’re gonna say, My kid’s a picky eater. But really the problem is that you only serve mac and cheese. Right? Yeah. You gave them what they wanted instead of being the adult, or really, you know, And in I, I try and in general, at the beginning, Have a problem getting my kids to eat the weird stuff.
It’s when they’re introduced to the other stuff, whether it’s outside of the house or at a grandparent’s house or you know, at a soccer game or something like that. You know, we used to get orange slices after soccer and now we get goldfish, fruit snacks, and a Gatorade. Mm-hmm. . So you know, guilty. But at a certain point it was stocking the freezer with gluten-free chicken nuggets or gluten-free fish sticks or whatever it may be.
Instead of, I don’t know, batch cooking something and then freezing, you know, a batch of meat. It would be just as easy to defrost that and throw it into something. But rather than take the time to do that, it was actually going to the store and looking for something that could be, you know, microwaved or baked or whatever it is that’s already.
It’s hard. I mean, the convenience food and the, the food marketers have done a really, really, really good job, of making it easy for parents to buy special foods for their kids, which as you mentioned, are usually beige. Mm-hmm. and, and keep that pallet very narrow. So, I mean, what can we do? Do we have to never buy chicken nuggets or mac and cheese?
No, but we just need to make sure that our kids have the opportunities to expand that pallet, to encounter raw vegetables, to have soups made with homemade bone broth. You know, Um, and we, we, so we keep boundaries. I think if we fully restrict foods, right? If you’re girls knew that they could never, ever eat goldfish and never, ever have that Gatorade, and never, ever, you know, if it’s all restriction, the rubber band effect is bound to happen.
Rubber band effect is when you pull that rubber band so tightly because everything’s restricted as soon as you let go, which means they get their driver’s license. Or even before that, you know, they have some money and they’re allowed to be out with their friends. Bo that rubber band is gonna snap really hard to the other end of the spectrum, and you’re gonna have kids who are junk food addicts.
Um, Right. So we can’t restrict, we want to, we just wanna put boundaries, you know, So when my kids get that junk after baseball and after soccer, it has to count as their one dessert a day. Yeah. So they can choose if they eat those Oreos or if they wait until dinner and, you know, see if we’re having ice cream or a sister made homemade cookies, um, if they eat the Oreos, then they don’t get, you know, a candy later in the day or whatever.
That’s, that’s how I run it, is we, the kids get one sweet or treat a day and they have to budget. Their own, which is a whole different, you know, that’s teaching responsibility and planning ahead and executive functioning skills that are really good for kids too. Mm-hmm. . Um, yeah. But it also, and you know what, we have to classify something.
I don’t have to say that that food is good or bad, but I can say this, this has enough sugar. It has to count as a dessert, right? So you’ve had a ton of sugar today. You know, it’s not, man, it’s just so hard. And I think there’s this tension between, I don’t know what the movement would be. It’s not the body positivity movement.
It’s maybe I’ll just call it food neutrality where there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so, which by the way, is a Shakespeare quote. I just, probably the first time and all of season one of Liz talks and I’ve worked in a Shakespeare quote. So, you know, round of applause for me real quick.
Well done, well done. Sound effects, well done. Um, but there’s this tension between that idea and then like truth and reality and I, it’s really hard because judgment and shame can be, Very, very damaging, but so can sugar and processed foods, and we want there to be a clear, easy answer that’s either one or the other, you know, left or right, whatever it may be.
But the answer is a constant recalibration of how we’re explaining things, what the kids are ready to grasp and conceptualize what we’re doing in our houses, you know, and bringing it back from, from the borderline every now and then, because that happens. And that’s hard. That’s really hard to sort of recognize that there’s this constant up and flow to life, into the process of teaching your kids something valuable.
And I know I don’t feel ready for it. I mean, maybe more now than I was an hour ago, but it’s just, it’s a tough proposition. How about some metrics to use or some litmus tests, right? Yes. That parents can apply. Like is this phrase that I’m about to say going to be helpful or hurtful to my child and my parenting?
Um, we, I think we can judge food. with facts, as you said, What we want to avoid is attaching emotions to food, right? What we want to avoid is attaching our love for our kids to anything that has to do with food. We wanna avoid judging the child and their success or failure based on what they eat, right?
So, can we keep, can we keep that good and bad dichotomy just on the food and not on the kids? And again, avoiding complete restriction. So we might say, Yeah, you know, there is nothing in that package. Whether that package is the Oreos, the goldfish, you name it, right? I might say something like, there’s, there’s nothing in that package that is going to give good fuel for your body, but it does taste pretty good, doesn’t it?
It’s kind of fun. Yeah. And can our, can our bodies handle something fun sometimes? And my kids will go, Yeah. I say, Yeah, I hope so. You know, our, our bodies can handle some junk, sometimes. Could our bodies handle nothing but junk? Probably not. So how do we, you know, how do we find that balance between making sure that we’re giving our bodies good fuel and, and having fun with the fun stuff we talk about savoring our desserts.
You know, I’m like, if you’re gonna eat a piece of cake, it’s fun in your mouth, not really doing anything helpful below the next. So enjoy it. Don’t scarf down, you know, don’t scarf down that cake, like savor those bites. So my kids eat ice cream with like demi toss spoons because they, they wanna make their small bowl of ice cream last.
And it’s funny and aggravating if it’s getting close to bedtime, but mostly just cute and sweet and appropriate. One of the conversations I’ve tried to start having with my daughter is around marketing, and this might be a whole nother world, but you know, every once in a while we actually go into Target.
We don’t do target pickup or target delivery, but every once in a while we go in there and you go to the checkout line and it’s just bright colors, you know, sugar marketing, all of that. And we’ve had to have some conversations around, they make it look like that because they know bright colors and sugar make kids happy.
But what they really want you to do is buy something that’s cheap for them to make and, you know, makes, I don’t know, it’s, it’s a tough conversation, but again, when you’re cooking at home, you kind of circumvent that issue as well because you’re actually bringing in real, in real whole ingredients and using those versus something out of a package or a box.
It’s such a good conversation to have, whether it’s the checkout line or the commercials or just the difference that they see in, you know, all what the other kids at school are eating. Versus themselves. And, and it’s, as you said, this is a such a delicate balance, you know, But when we look at, a lot of times we’ll talk about, oh, like so and so really had trouble controlling themselves.
Maybe if they ate how we ate, they , they would feel better. You know? Now is that really, really sticky? Cuz what if the kid says something, you know, to the other family. Right. You know, my mom said if you ate , I know better. You wouldn’t be such a wackadoo. So tricky. So probably better to use our own kids.
Right? Like a couple weeks ago, my seven year old was at a birthday party. I’m not exactly sure everything he had, but his plan was to have five hot dogs. So right away, okay, we are, we are well beyond what we normally eat in the Kindle household. dream big kid. Yeah, exactly. You know, I know he had cake. I don’t know what the drink was.
Um, and he was a hot mess. The next day. , he was throwing, he was angry, he was sad, he was emotional. I mean the, he literally fell apart. And so, You know, if I can keep the judgment outta my voice, it’s a better teachable moment. Hey, boy, you’re, you’re really struggling today, honey. What did you do yesterday?
What, what did you eat? You know, how much sleep did you get? Like, anything we can do as parents to give our kids brains and kind of mental attitudes, that connection between how they feel and the input they’ve put in, right? Mm-hmm. , whether that’s sleep, food, stress, friends, they’re hanging out with, that’s a, that’s a good parenting move.
Delicate balance to, to say it, right? Like you said, choose your vocabulary words correctly, but it’s always a good teachable moment. Hmm, for sure. Okay. What am I missing? What questions did I need to ask that I didn’t ask about your program, about your approach about feeding my fictional seven year old girl?
Tell me, tell me what I missed. You know, people always wanna know what’s too young, or when do I start teaching my kids to cook? And you have a two year old, Two is my answer. Okay. Typically sometimes 18 months. Um, because it’s, it’s really never too early to just let a kid explore with a butter knife and a banana, you know, or a little bowl of, of salt or sugar, maybe salt cuz they might eat the sugar.
Um, you know, and just sort of explore scooping and, and scraping a, a flat teaspoon. It’s, uh, it’s great to start as young as possible. Okay. I’ll work on that. I’ll let you know how it goes. I think, I think I could handle a butter knife and a banana. I think, I think I could do that. My two year old does like to crack eggs, which isn’t my favorite thing, but I do sometimes let it happen.
You know, , we have a pretty good source for eggs and, and I feel pretty okay with a wasted egg here or there, but, um, yeah, I’ll, I’ll give that, I’ll give that a whirl with the two year old. The seven year old might be too far gone, but I’ll give it a try with her. I don’t, It’s not too late. . Never too late.
Never too late. Well, Katie Kimball, thank you so much for coming on the show and talking about, oh my gosh, all of the, the ins and outs of cooking with kids and handling picky eaters and everything else. I really, really appreciate you. That was a fun conversation. Thanks for hanging out. Okay, that went so quick.
I’m gonna stop recording really quickly.