Do children like fish if they prepare it?
Many believe that children eat too little seafood because they don’t like it. But, what happens if they learn to prepare seafood in kindergarten?
This is a question Siril Alm wonders about. She is a researcher at the Nofima Food Research Institute in Tromsø, Norway, and heads the project called Fish Chefs of the Future, or in Norwegian “Fremtidens fiskekokker”. The purpose of the project is to investigate how children can become more confident in their cooking skills, and especially cooking seafood.
“International studies show that children often like fruit and vegetables that they have prepared themselves and even eat more of them. This is why we are looking at whether children who prepare a seafood dish in kindergarten like the food better than other children,” she says.
This is something no one else has done before.
Children must learn to make seafood
Alm has worked as a researcher at Nofima since 2010, and for several years has worked studying children’s attitudes and preferences towards food. She believes today’s youth have poor basic cooking skills.
“Before, children learned to cook from their mothers, but today other sources are used, such as schools and the Internet. When parents take their children with them into the kitchen it is usually when they are going to bake something. But why do they not invite their children into the kitchen when they cook dinner?”, wonders Alm.
“Skills such as chopping, boiling and frying food are more important to learn than stirring and cut dough,” she explains.
“Children should learn to cook healthy dinners rather than to bake muffins,” she points out.
So why should children learn to cook seafood?
“Many associate fish dinners with boiled cod and potatoes, and they think that seafood is both boring and time consuming. To increase seafood consumption, young people need more inspiration as to how they can prepare tasty and quick seafood dishes,” says Alm.
In cooperation with colleagues from Nofima, she has visited several Norwegian kindergartens over the past weeks. Together with the adults, the children have prepared and eaten a recipe called, crispy fish fingers with mashed potatoes and crunchy vegetables (Sprø seipinner med knaskegrønnsaker).”
The results of the research are based on interviews with the children and kindergarten staff, interactive questionnaires, and children’s drawings.
“Why just kindergartens? Here we can reach all types of children from different parts of society and different families, from homes that eat lots of fish, and homes that eat little fish,” she explains.
Even though it is too early in the project to draw conclusions from the research, Alm has noticed one thing that has been a positive surprise.
“The young people think cooking food together with others is fun. I hope the project can provide kindergartens and parents with inspiration as to how they can include the children when cooking. All the children have been given recipe cards for how to cook the recepie” she explains.
The cards, which are produced by a company called Iver og Evne, uses pictures to show what kitchen equipment and ingredients are needed, as well as a step-by-step illustration for how to prepare the dish.
“I hope the recipe cards and the project can inspire both families and kindergartens to cook seafood together,” Alm says.
Support from the chef
Sorgenfri Barnehage, is one of the participating kindergartens in the study.
Chef, Hilde Johnsen, believes that “Seafood Chefs of the Future” is an important project to get today’s children and young people to eat more seafood.
“It is surprising that so few choose not to eat fish. It is easy to prepare, and it doesn’t take longer time than cooking spaghetti with meat sauce. Seafood is both heathy and tasty,” says Johnsen.
Just as Alm, she believes that food children eat at an early age greatly influences their eating habits later in life.
“This is why we often serve seafood at the kindergarten. The children love it and think it is delicious. Naturally, this makes me extremely happy,” she says.