Part 2: When Kids Cook

19 Apr


In the first part of ‘When Kids Cook’ we looked at how cooking can effectively open doors to learning.

This week I’m focusing on positive physical development through cooking experiences. You don’t need to be a registered dietician, professional educator, or experienced chef to support mindful eating in youth. Eating habits develop through not only childhood, but our entire lives. Here’s an example, a simple case study:

I didn’t drink soda when I was a child. It wasn’t available in my house: we mostly drank water or sometimes juice. One of the drinks I remember enjoying most was home-brewed iced tea (inexpensive, no sugar, kids can make it with limited help). Today, as a 23 year-old working person in our sugar-saturated culture, I rarely drink soda more than a few times/month, if that.

So I think you can figure out where I’m going: when youth learn healthy habits at a young age, these lessons stay with them. I’ll outline suggestions for teaching youth nutrition, balance and moderation, and understanding what’s in their food. Please also feel free to share your own ideas!

Nutrition
Learning about healthy eating in science class can be less than exciting, but making small changes in your life (and feeling the results) is much more inspirational. From trying new fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to designing a complete meal, nutrition can easily be a memorable and transforming experience for youth. You just need a simple nutrition book or a good website (girlshealth.gov is a good place to start) to learn about the basics of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs, fats, and water. Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach someone else.

Balance and moderation
It’s difficult to teach moderation. In my experience, particularly with food, education and trial-and-error have taught me balance. You’ve heard it a million times: obesity is a huge problem in America and around the world. While there are deep social inequalities and flaws in our food systems that directly contribute to our low health quality, it’s possible to start small changes on an individual level. If you have any connection to youth, you have the opportunity to start a shift in our food consciousness.

Understanding what’s in your food
I’ve watched enough food shows to know what ‘deep frying’ means. There’s a lot of oil involved. It’s easy to forget just how much oil until you’ve made fries yourself. Hot oil spitting on my clothes, I need to shower because my hair smells so greasy…it’s enough to make me think twice before ordering them at a restaurant. On the other side, the freshness I feel from preparing a simple salad or wholesome soup is also a reminder when I’m making food decisions. Kids can know these feelings, too!

Next installment of ‘When Kids Cook’: mental health.

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