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Tyler Florence Says Secret to Getting Kids to Eat Well is Letting Them Help

Originally published on on February 13, 2009.

Tyler Florence knows what it’s like to feed a picky eater. His 12-year-old son was an adventurous eater until he got to elementary school and swore off all things green. But now that he’s hitting middle school, Florence says that his son is “starting to move out of his elementary stage.”

His secret to raising healthy eaters? Letting them help in the kitchen.

With his children, Florence shops for food at local farmer’s markets regularly. “I think kids feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they show up with something that they’ve helped to pick together. Like to go to farmer’s market [and buy] whatever’s fresh,” Florence said.

He recently bought a bunch of apples with his oldest son and transformed it into apple butter to give as gifts. “My oldest son and I peeled apples for about two hours,” he said. Meanwhile, his 18-month-old is in the toddler phase of eating. “He likes to cook. He’s very interested in what’s going up on the countertop and he’s discovered that if he can push a chair over and climb up, he can (help),” Florence says. His toddler helps Dad make pancakes. “He starts to stir it and he had the biggest smile on the face.”

Florence makes sure that he cooks breakfast for his children at least twice a week. He says that incorporating kids into the process of cooking can encourage them to eat well. “If you can incorporate them into the process, there is a little bit of self-fulfillment – little kids love to help,” Florence said.

But cooking together isn’t all. Florence also believes in eating dinner as a family.

“The most important thing is the sit-down meal. That’s how we really incorporate food and cooking into our kids lives,” Florence said.

He also suggests leading by example. Eat the way you want your children to eat. “If they see you eating something and it’s not so much of a mystery,” Florence said.