Here at Oldways we love to hear from everyone when it comes to healthy living.  But we especially love to talk with registered dietitians (RDs) about strategies they are using to encourage better health with their patients, young and old.  So when our friend Jessica Fishman Levinson announced she was writing a child-friendly cookbook chock full of recipes and activities to get kids involved and excited about cooking, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a copy!  And once we did, we couldn’t wait to do a fun Q&A with Jessica so we could share her healthy insights with all of you! Oldways: Jessica, Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your nutrition practice? Jessica: I’m a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant in New York City and the founder of Nutritioulicious. My mantra is “nutritious food, delicious life.” I encourage my clients to make food choices that are healthy and nutrient-rich, but that also taste great. At the end of the day, if you don’t enjoy what you eat, it will be more challenging to maintain a healthy diet. Oldways: What was the inspiration behind your new book, We Can Cook”?
Jessica: I love seeing the interest and excitement children have when it comes to food and I think that teaching them about nutrition and food at a young age is such an important part of child development. I am also a big believer that children can and should eat the same foods that adults eat, and one way to encourage children to advance their palates is by bringing them into the kitchen during the cooking process. The recipes in “We Can Cook” are designed for children to be an integral part of the food preparation. It’s a great way for kids to learn about new foods and also learn at an early age how to cook. Rather than parents cooking on their own and placing new foods in front of their children at meal time, if the kids are involved in the cooking process they will be more likely to try the food they made. Oldways: What do you think are the most important things parents should remember when trying to get children excited about food and cooking? Jessica: Parents need to stay calm about what their children are eating. I see so many parents who jump to call their children “picky eaters” and get so nervous that their children aren’t eating a variety of foods. It takes many exposures (more than the 10-15 that are commonly referenced) before some children will eat certain foods. Another thing parents need to remember is to look at the abilities of each individual child. The preparation instructions for the recipes in “We Can Cook” are generally written for three- to six-year-old children, but every child develops differently, so parents need to be aware of what their children can do. And most important, parents should make the time in the kitchen fun. That’s what cooking and food exploration should be about! Oldways: We realize that there are so many terrific recipes in your book but do you have a favorite recipe (or two) you would like to share with our readers? Jessica:  One of my favorite recipes is the Edamame Salad on page 46. Edamame is a fun vegetable for kids to eat, especially straight from the pods. This salad combines a variety of vegetables with a light vinaigrette that will introduce children to some Asian flavors. Edamame Salad 6-8 Servings Ingredients: 1 (14-oz) bag of shelled edamame, frozen 1 large red bell pepper 3 scallions 1 carrot 2 tbsp sesame oil 1 tbsp rice vinegar 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce Freshly ground black pepper Equipment: A strainer A small to medium pot A medium bowl A cutting board A grater A small mixing bowl A whisk or fork Instructions: Cook the edamame according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Chop the pepper and scallions, and help your child to grate the carrot (you should end up with about half a cup of grated carrot). Ask him/her to add the vegetables to the edamame beans. In a small mixing bowl, your child can add and then whisk together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce to make the dressing. Pour the dressing over the edamame salad and toss to combine. Season with pepper. Enjoy!

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