Hugh Acheson's Top 5 Thanksgiving Prep Tips

Thanksgiving

Hugh Acheson knows a thing or two about making great meals. As a judge on the reality show “Top Chef” and owner of four award-winning Georgia restaurants, his expertise is well known. And as the dad of two young daughters, he also knows a thing or two about foods that kids like.

So what's his number-one ingredient for creating the most memorable Thanksgiving meal ever? Involving your kids! "Every time you include your kids in making a meal, you build memories," he says. "It's not always easy to change meal routines, but I guarantee you'll have some of your best times ever, cooking alongside your children."

Photo Credit: Andy Lee

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Tip #1: get kids involved from the beginning

Start by sitting down together to plan your Thanksgiving meal and taking them shopping for ingredients. As you shop, talk about the importance of eating whole fruits and veggies, which come from the ground, not a box.

S4L Bonus Tip: Use “Top Chef” as inspiration for your kids to increase their meal-making skills! Take them to the grocery store, give each one a shopping list and a time limit to see who can find items the fastest, then pick a recipe together and make it from scratch. Or get creative and create a meal from three to five ingredients already in your kitchen.

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Tip #2: give veggies more visibility

Veggies have almost become a garnish on our plates, but they should be an important part of the meal. A visit to your local farmers market is a fun family outing and often less expensive than the grocery store. Some farmers markets offer a double-value coupon program with subsidies such as SNAP.

S4L Bonus Tip: Teach kids to fill half their plates with veggies or fruits. Serve a variety of colors, especially red, orange and dark green, because they're full of nutrients and each color offers your body different benefits. To add variety, pick a new fruit or vegetable regularly.

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Tip #3: show kids, don't just tell them

Your kids learn about what's important by watching you. If you put in the effort to make healthy, tasty meals, they'll learn to do the same. Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to cook a great meal together!

S4L Bonus Tip: Let kids come to the table a bit hungry. They'll be more likely to try healthy foods during the meal if their tummies aren't full of the chips and soda they gobbled up an hour before.

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Tip #4: make Southern food the right way

Southern food gets a bad rap for being high in fat, salt and sugar, but it wasn't always made that way. Go back to the Southern basics by leaving sugar out of the cornbread and biscuits, and marshmallows off the sweet potatoes.

S4L Bonus Tip: Sweet tea is a down-home Southern favorite, but it's as full of sugar as it can be (bless its heart). In two shakes of a lamb's tail, you can whip up some flavored water that'll help keep your kin fit as fiddles!

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Tip #5: walk away from convenience foods

Cooking from scratch is so much better for your family; do it whenever you can. If you can't recognize or pronounce an ingredient, why give it to your kids?

S4L Bonus Tip: If you eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies, you don't need vitamin supplements or "enriched" foods!