Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Kid-Friendly Cooking – Teach Them!

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A typical TV Dinner.

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Over the past 20 years, childhood obesity in the United States has:

  • more than tripled among adolescents
  • more than doubled among children ages 6 to 11*

It’s a serious issue that can have consequences well into adulthood.  It appears to me that it begins in very early childhood.

Parental Influences

Studies suggest that parental food influences directly affect and shape those of their children.  We can take sodas out of the schools, encourage healthier school lunches, get kids moving, and ban or tax high fat and sugary foods all we want to, but the fact remains that learning how to eat healthy has to be learned in the early years and eating behaviors (good or bad) starts  in the home under the influence of the parents.

In studying for classes in Food and Culture, I kept coming back to the French culture.  In my opinion, they stand at the top in knowing how to eat along with their love and respect of food, which is reflected in their lower obesity and heart disease rates.

One “Eating Secret” of the French is: Take the Time to Cook Properly. To quote or paraphrase from the book ‘”30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines” by Stephen Jonas, MD and Sandra Gordon:

“In North America, we’re enamored with food that can be zapped.”   Just look at the supermarket freezer case of prepared foods.  “When the going gets tough, we pick up a can opener or reach for the frozen microwave meal.” The goal is to get a meal on the table in the fastest time possible with the least amount of effort.

The French have a different take on food preparation. “ Even in a hurry, they seldom use convenience but prefer the freshest, high-quality ingredients that happen to have the greater nutrient value.  “They are more apt to use a fresh product that’s only partially prepared, such as carrots that have been grated, beets that have already been cooked, or peeled potatoes.  But the meal they put together is a work of their own, so they know exactly what they’re putting into their bodies and exactly what they’re serving their families.”  Compare that to Americans who are faced with long (and I mean long) list of ingredients on processed foods that most of us cannot recognize.

This advice makes the case for a return to cooking and what better way is there than to teach our children to cook.  Maybe even the parents will learn from this experience.   So the goal is to provide nutrition education from a cooking standpoint targeted at the parents so they can pass along this knowledge to their children.  Isn’t that the way it supposed to work?

From a previous post entitled 28% of Americans Can’t Cook, here are a few tips:;

  • Start simple- buy a cookbook that uses only 3-5 ingredients.
  • Read magazines such as Real Simple that usually promote simple meals.
  • Shop with a list to cut down supermarket time.
  • Cook one-pot meals to cut down kitchen cleanup.
  • Attend cooking demonstrations – they’re fun and you get to sample real foods.
  • Use fresh ingredients as much as possible or partially prepared vegetables and fruits.

As for the seriously challenged cook,  just think of it this way – “I will look for more kid-friendly recipes that my three-year-old can help me with”  It’s a start.

There  is a great article on the benefits of teaching your child to cook.  Please click HERE.

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