Program teaches families about nutritious desserts

HOUGHTON – Nutritious desserts don’t have to be unappetizing or time-consuming.

Arnie Kinnunen, prevention specialist with the Western Upper Peninsula District Health Department, and Beth Cook, dietitian at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, demonstrated making a fruit dessert at B-H-K Child Development Monday night as part of B-H-K’s Family Engagement Night series.

Cook and Kinnunen visit B-H-K sites through a grant from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The goal is to introduce families to new fruits and vegetables and hope they’ll work on little projects like this,” Kinnunen said.

Cook said children should have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat if they have a personal interest in it. Cook advised involving children in cooking and shopping, such as having them look for yellow foods.

“When you engage your child in cooking, they’re more likely to try that food,” she said.

While the clean plate has been held up as the ideal for kids, Cook said it’s best to listen to children if they say they’re full. She shared her own memories of staring at a cold bowl of chili.

“Parents decide what the kids should eat, but kids decide how much,” she said.

As a demonstration, they made a fruit cocktail. The children helped chop up bananas, spoon yogurt, pour canned fruit (Cook recommended light syrup), and stir the cocktail.

“Who wants to stir this for me?” Cook asked. Several hands went up from the kids who were crowded around the table.

“It’s surprising what 3- to 5-year-olds can do in the kitchen,” she said.

Christine Porter, whose granddaughter was one of the children preparing the food, said they come to the Engagement Nights sometimes. With this activity, they made a point of coming.

“It is such a good topic that we really wanted to be here,” she said.