A Summer of Family Fun: Cooking with Your Kids

Parents all over the world understand the important role adequate nutrition plays in a child’s growth. Taipei is a city famous for its gourmet food, and naturally, many healthy eating options exist. Li Wan-Pin (李婉萍), a pediatric dietitian in Taipei, states that ingredients with vitamin D, calcium, iron, and β-carotene are essential elements of a child’s diet. The dark green and reddish- orange colors of fruits and vegetables serve as indicators of their nutritional value. With the warm summer days approaching, cooking with your children creates wonderful family memories during your child’s vacation, as well as aids in their muscle development and hand- eye coordination. (If you want to try cooking Taiwanese food: A Head Chef’s Homestyle Take on Taiwanese Cuisine)

Use everyday ingredients to make simple and nutritious dishes suitable for children. (Photo/Huang Yingjia)

Supplement the Nutrition from Daily Diet

Li has observed that family restaurants focus by and large on providing a space for parents to relax and take a time-out when they come to dine with their children, but from the perspective of a dietitian, some of the meals offered may not be so suitable for kids. “Many restaurants still provide fast and convenient foods like fried chicken nuggets and French fries, and family restaurants also provide a play space with toys for children. The problem is that if children are used to linking fun to fried food, whenever they face stress in the future, they will gravitate towards eating such foods in a bid to relieve stress.”

When it comes to the nutrients needed by pre-school children, Li mentions they can actually be consumed as part of a normal diet. For example, calcium helps with bone development, and common dairy products such as milk, yogurt or cheese are good sources of calcium. Salmon, saury, mackerel, and egg yolk provide vitamin D. According to Li, salmon fried rice and creamy seafood risotto are good examples of dishes rich in nutrients.

Li points out that salmon and dark green vegetables are rich in nutritional value and are suitable for everyday dishes. (Photo/Josh Bean)

Keep Root and Frozen Vegetables Handy for a Quick Serve

Additionally, Li would like to remind parents that children are generally inadequate in their intake of folic acid. Parents should inspect their child’s diet and ensure that they consume at least one dark green vegetable every two days to get enough of this water-soluble B vitamin. Bitter gourd, Chinese kale, and nanohana are examples of good vegetable choices for children.

Li also believes that increasing the diversity of ingredients will help avoid children’s picky eating habits. “Children tend to have what we call ‘food neophobia.’ They will immediately reject foods that they have never eaten before. Therefore, it is recommended that parents change the dishes around. In addition to increasing the variety of ingredients, children will also be less likely to reject vegetables that they do not often eat, such as bitter gourd or eggplant, resulting in excessive leftovers.” (Find a place to eat with your kids in Taipei: Four Fantastic Family Restaurants in Taipei)

Li Wan-Pin highly recommends dishes that can be served quickly and have a high nutritional value.

However, many parents are busy working during the day and they have very little time to cook. Li suggests that root vegetable ingredients such as pumpkins and carrots can be kept at home, as they are able to be stored for a long time, and are relatively easy to cook. Frozen edamame and broccoli are also ingredients that can be kept in the refrigerator. Whether it is thawing the broccoli and heating it up, or making edamame with rice, steamed edamame with ground meat, or even fried edamame tofu, these dishes can be served very quickly. If time permits, Li believes it is beneficial to have children help with cooking, as it also helps strengthen the parent-child bond.

Creative Family Cooking Time

In this issue, Li would like to introduce two family recipes that are suitable for parents and children to cook together. The first dish is “Pumpkin Gnocchi,” which can be used as a staple dish. Li remarks, “Children can help to knead the dough into gnocchi, or you can have them use cookie molds to make gnocchi of different shapes. While it may seem like a game to them, the kneading process actually develops children’s hand muscles and hand-eye coordination.” Li says that as long as the children’s gnocchi is not too thick, they should be allowed to fully exercise their creativity. Complimenting and encouraging children during the process is also a good way to increase their confidence.

There is no fixed shape for gnocchi, and the preparation process also trains children’s hand-eye coordination. (Photo/Huang Yingjia)

The second dish is “Carrots and Scrambled Eggs,” a dish that can be served quickly. Li confirms that this dish contains β-carotene from the carrots, as well as lecithin and vitamin D from the eggs. She advises parents to add a little more cooking oil to reduce the earthy smell of carrots. In addition, rather than shredding using a grater, it is recommended to use a knife for shredding, as grated carrots are uniform in shape and tend to become mushy after frying. Knife-cut carrots are more diverse in shape, providing for a rich variety of textures. As for beating the eggs, you might want to let your child have a go at it. “But before you start, you have to first explain the possible dangers to your child. And don’t talk about it while doing it!” Finally, Li would like to remind everyone that knives and fire sources are dangerous things in the kitchen. You have to warn your child in advance in order to ensure a safe family cooking experience.

Family Handmade Recipes

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Pumpkin Gnocchi is a great recipe for preparing ingredients with children. The dough kneading process also helps develop children’s hand muscles.


60 grams of pumpkin, 40 grams of carrots, 40 grams of black fungus, 80 grams of ground meat, 100 grams of all- purpose flour, 50 grams of cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, appropriate amount of green onions, a few dried shrimps, and 1,000c.c of broth


1. Wash the carrots and black fungus and shred them. Soak the dried shrimps in water for 20 minutes and drain the water, and put them aside for later use.

2. Peel the pumpkin, cut it into equal-sized pieces, and steam the pieces until soft.

3. Mix the pumpkin pieces with all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and salt, knead them into a non-sticky or shapeable dough and let the dough sit for 3 to 5 minutes. Put the gnocchi into boiling water and wait for it to float.

4. Put the green onions and dried shrimps into another oil pan and sauté. Add ground meat and stir fry, then add the broth, carrots, and black fungus. Bring it to a boil, add the gnocchi and serve.

Carrots and Scrambled Eggs

Carrots and Scrambled Eggs is a dish that can be served quickly and is not only rich in nutrients, but also flavorful, and is very popular with children.


Half a carrot and 4 eggs


1. Wash the carrots, peel them and shred them.

2. Fry the shredded carrots in a frying pan until they become mushy.

3. Add the beaten eggs in and fry them until they are 80% or fully cooked.

4. Add seasonings as necessary and serve.

This article is reproduced under the permission of TAIPEI. Original content can be found on the website of Taipei Travel Net (www.travel.taipei/en).

More about Food in Taiwan