Tackling Childhood Obesity- Teach Kids How to Cook

Michelle Obama's Let's Move! generated a lot of buzz last week. This initiative aims to solve the childhood obesity epidemic in a generation's time. It is a difficult task to accomplish; nonetheless, I applause her for initiating the much needed and much delayed program.

During the same week, there was another equally exceptional proposal to fight childhood obesity. Upon receiving 2010's TED Prize, Jamie Oliver wishes to overhaul the American food system by "teach[ing] every child about food." Better known as the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver has published cookbooks and hosted a number of tv shows. His latest endeavor is teaching kids how to cook as way of tackling the enormous issue of childhood obesity.

I cannot agree more with his simple message. The art of cooking has been slowly disappearing in recent years. Drive-thrus, prepared meals from grocery stores, and cheap unhealthful food have made it all too easy to eat without busting out pots and spatulas. This pattern is rubbing off on kids, too. I have witnessed first-hand from an 8th grader who reached for a Nissin Cup Noodle as an after-school snack because she doesn't know how to make anything else. It's a tragedy that kids go to these unhealthful foods simply because they haven't been taught how to put together a simple snack.

Cooking can seem like a daunting task for anyone. But making meals at home doesn't need to involve fire and hours of slicing and dicing. There are simple no-cook, stir-and-assemble recipes that are quick and affordable. Kids can help out by assembling their own pita pocket or pizza. The bottom line is kids will at least try a new food if they participate in the preparation. If they help make a macaroni salad (with low-fat mayo, of course) on Sunday, they will be excited to bring it to school for lunch on Monday. And one thing is for certain: that macaroni salad is much healthier than the preservatives-laden burrito with psuedo-cheese that the school is serving up.

The art of cooking needs to be revived. Invite your little sibling, son, daughter, cousin, next door neighbor's kid, or grandbabies to start cooking up a storm in the kitchen this weekend. It's an inexpensive activity that will get everyone off the couch, and I can guarantee y'all will have a great time.

Some ideas for engaging kids in the kitchen (and beyond):
[x] Pita bread (see picture, above left) makes sandwiches infinitely more interesting for anyone from 1 to 92. Try it in place of the standard sandwich bread.

[x] Take the family to your local farmer's market, or better yet, the farm. It's essential for kids to know that fruits and vegetables and meat don't grow in the supermarket. Connecting kids with local farmers is a great way to introduce them to the people behind the tomato that is in their pasta sauce.

[x] Spread almond butter (or sunflower butter) with whole grain crackers and drizzle with honey bought from the farmer's market (like the one above, right).

[x] Let your kids (and yourself) create a unique trail mix by choosing favorite nuts and dried fruits from the bulk bins (like those in Whole Foods or Henry's). Buying in bulk can save you money and let you make your own amazing combination.

[x] Cut sticks of carrot, celery, and bell pepper and pack with small containers of hummus for work or school. Definitely beats that stale donut in the conference room or that evil vending machine in the hallway. 

[x] Make your own pizza with pre-made dough from the grocery store (Trader Joe's has a great whole grain one). A thin layer of low sodium sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese topped with seasonal veggies and diced chicken or tofu. It'll take less time than ordering delivery and so much more rewarding for kids. 


Anonymous said...

First post! Keep it up! =D

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