How to get kids excited about healthy food? Teach them to cook it themselves, of course!
The past two weeks at my dietetic internship were spent teaching kids how to cook!
We hosted 4 cooking classes for kids (through the 4-H program) and had a blast — and more importantly, so did the kids! I think getting kids excited about food and doing their own cooking is one of the most important things that we can do to help fight the child obesity crisis. When kids are involved in the cooking process, they will be much more likely to try healthy foods, like vegetables, because they created it!
The kids in the class were really excited to be learning some cooking skills, like how to use a knife, which knives are used for what, and how a meal comes together from start to finish. They were all really proud of what we created each day.
To make the classes very hands-on, we split the kids up into groups — me, my co-intern Diana, and a volunteer were each assigned 4 to 5 kids to cook with each class; our boss floated around to make sure everything was going okay. Everyone had copies of the recipes for each class (we made about 4 to 6 recipes per class), and our job was to guide the kids through the recipes, making sure they did all the work so they really learned it 🙂 Teaching them to clean up as they went was key, too!
The kids were really cute and enthusiastic for the most part and we only had 2 very minor knife accidents the whole time — success!
At the end of each class, we got to enjoy the spoils of our labors for lunch 🙂
Our one rule for the class (since none of the kids had any allergies) was that the kids had to try a little of everything. It was successful! We had the kids eating a ton of veggies.
One of the girls said she didn’t like asparagus because she thought it was salty (she’d only tried it canned). We explained to her that frozen (or fresh) asparagus isn’t salty — and she really liked the grilled and roasted asparagus we cooked in the class! She said she’d ask her mom to buy frozen or fresh instead next time. Other kids in the class tried veggies they’d never had before and found they liked them! (And some didn’t like them, of course, haha.) But even just getting one kid to eat and enjoy a veggie they didn’t think they liked or hadn’t had before = win 🙂
We also gave the kids some basic nutritional information at the beginning of each class, as well as lessons on how to set a table, how to use a food thermometer, etc. I led a session on portion sizes, and one of the kids told me that he went home and educated his family about correct portion sizes later that night! Hehe. Love it 🙂
We did a huge variety of recipes — stir fry, roasted meat, soup, lots of roasted and grilled veggies, corn bread, eggs, pasta, salads, baked fish, bean dips, and much more.
We also taught them some easy and healthy desserts that they can make themselves, like yogurt, granola, and fruit parfaits!
Added bonus: parfaits are fun to make 🙂
Another healthy dessert we made was quick baked cinnamon apples — just combine sliced apples, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar, pop in the microwave, and you’re done!
We even taught them how to make their own whipped cream, which we then served on top of healthy fruit smoothies. Yum!
Did you cook at all when you were a kid? And if you have kids, do you let them help you cook?
Stay tuned — tomorrow I’ll be sharing one of my favorite recipes from the cooking classes!
While we’re on the topic of my internship, a bunch of you asked me to share how yesterday at the WIC (Women, Infants, & Children) clinic was! As part of our hours this summer, we have to do a few visits outside of our own internship, and WIC was one of our “required experiences.”
Basically, a WIC clinic is a federally funded program that serves low and moderate income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 who have a nutrition-related health problem. Each county has the program and it provides residents a combination of nutrition counseling and education, supplemental foods (via vouchers that can be used at the grocery store), breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. It’s a good program and I was really impressed with what I saw yesterday! We spent the whole day at the clinic and were able to follow a number of patients through the entire visit process — from checking in and getting their (and/or their children’s) weight/height taken, to getting iron levels checked, to having a 15 minute nutritional consultation with a nutritionist or RD. It was really interesting — very much like a doctor’s office. All the nutrition counselors had their charts and plotted the children’s height/weight or calculated the adult’s BMI, and then talked to them about where they were, if they had any concerns/questions, how their and their child’s current diet was and how to improve it if necessary, etc. At the end of the visit, they pick up their food vouchers and are on their way!
We were also able to sit in on a 1 hour pregnancy nutrition and breastfeeding informational class. I was so impressed with the staff we met yesterday — they were all really great and very enthusiastic about their jobs. Fascinating day!