Our children count on us to lead the way to health and well being. They look to our habits and actions as written in stone. In other words they trust us. Are we honoring their trust in us by showing them the way to eat healthy food and stabilize at a healthy weight? Do we really want them to learn our habits and actions? We can tell our kids anything, but if we don't adapt health and well being in our own lives, these words will fall on deaf ears.
One way of teaching our kids the proper way of anything is showing them how it is done. A great time to start kids off is when they are young. Cooking With Kids Foundation has all inclusive classes that show our kids ages 4-10, the safe way to hold a knife without hurting themselves while chopping and slicing food. They have wonderful instructors that are trained by Chef Lynda Rexroat, a renowned chef that learned her trade in France and has brought her knowledge to us locally in order for the community to help fight the epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes.
The classes start with learning about the foods we eat. The kids color pictures of different healthy foods while the instructors explain what they are about in an interactive question and answer period with the kids. Kids know much more about what is good for them then we thought. As we all well know, knowing what is good for us and eating what is good for us are two very different things.
That's why Chef Lynda also shows each student how to make their healthy meals tasty and delicious by using great spices, herbs and cooking with love. Parents have also confided in Chef Lynda that when they are in the grocery store picking out foods, their children will often say "Chef Lynda says that is not a healthy choice".
Chef Lynda's process stays with our children. They remember and take their knowledge home to their families and are able to continue staying healthy long into adulthood. Many of the kids, have the opportunity to volunteer and instruct other children, which keeps this amazing Foundation moving forward into the future.
In addition to the loss of control over freshness and your own nutrition, there is a financial downside to pre-prepared foods from the supermarket. Convenience comes with costs, some obvious and some hidden.
Let’s consider the obvious first. You are paying for the costs of processing, packaging, distribution and—in many cases—for an expensive advertising campaign. This is in addition to the cost of the food ingredients themselves. There is also the possibility that the store itself has a far higher markup on brand-name processed foods than on ingredients in the produce aisle.
The hidden costs can be even worse. If the price seems cheap compared to purchasing the ingredients yourself, this may be due to lower-quality ingredients than you would knowingly choose for yourself and your family. Of even more concern is the fact that the long time between production and consumption usually requires the addition of chemical preservatives to prolong shelf life. Finally, taste may be augmented by the addition of fat, salt, and/or sugar in large amounts. Your body pays these hidden costs, sometimes even more than your pocketbook
Do you really want to go on paying with your money and your body?
Probably every person will agree that portions of food served in restaurants have gone out of control,. Patrons are left to carry away “doggie bags.” But are the portions we serve at home often out of control, too?
With national concern over the prevalence of obesity among Americans, this is a fair question. Add to this the scores of articles on dieting, and the question of portion sizes is at the center. I have read so many articles that give me portion size advice and suggestions that I have difficulty remembering or using. I can’t relate to seeing my portion of protein as a deck of cards of my piece of cheese as a ping pong ball.
But in a recent magazine for diabetics, I found the perfect measure for me. Take a nine inch plate, divide it in half and fill that half with vegetables, fresh or cooked.
Divide the remaining half in half again and fill one with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and the second half with protein. But I can hear it now, “What,no dessert? For this I resort to the new USDA Food Plate. The Food
Plate says, “Eat your fruit!” with my dessert plate (about six inches) I add a serving a of fruit and remember my mother-in-law who always served what she called “ fresh fruit in season,” or my grandmother who served “sauce” for dessert—home canned
Adding a drink with the meal offers opens new questions and lots of published advice for and against drinking with the meal. All I remember is don’t
drink with your mouth full. Now for me, I add herb tea, hot or iced and for
grandchildren the customary glass of milk—2% milk seems to go over best. The good part is I feel satisfied with enough energy left to do the dishes.
That’s not surprising. Doctors tell us we have in our brain a natural control for our appetite called the appestat, but it can easily become useless if we overeat or don’t stop eating when we feel satisfied or full. Sometimes the command to clean up your plate can lead us astray, especially with children who don’t or can’t serve themselves.
Coco Kids (Children’s Care Council of Contra Costa County) in their guidelines for day care centers suggests that wherever possible children be allowed to serve themselves. They can be cautioned to take a small portion then ask for more rather
than take a large portion and fail to “clean it up.” It seems to me that this method gives children an opportunity to listen to their appestat. We adults are left on our own to recognize when we are full and stop eating if we are satisfied no matter how much we would love another serving of mashed potatoes or a rich and gooey dessert.
Lou Ann Berardi
Chef Lynda Rexroat, Executive Director of Cooking with Kids Foundation, has been working and teaching for over fourteen years to improve the health of children in the Tri-valley area through her hands on cooking classes. Her classes, presented in schools and afterschool programs, offer children, preschool through early teens, the opportunity to select prepare and enjoy healthful snacks and meals that are easy, satisfying and affordable.
Chef Lynda believes that parents need to be on the front line defending their children against the current epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes that threaten American children today. According to Chef Lynda, children “take” to cooking naturally and enthusiastically eat what they prepare. The pilot programs conducted by CWKF over the past two years show that parents shopping enjoy shopping with their children watching them prepared food under Chef Lynda’s direction.
When the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) released its newest standards for school lunches on February 1, 2012, the first change in fifteen years, both parents and children alternately cheered and groaned. It seems we win a few and we lose a few...
The changes are primarily practical implementations of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Simply stated:
· Kids will be offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week, (Remember when catsup was classed as a vegetable?)
· Portions of whole grain-rich foods will be increased substantially
· Only fat-free and low-fat milk varieties will be offered
· Proper portion sizes for the age of the child served will control or limit calories
· Focus is on reducing the amounts of saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
Most parents are already making some of these changes at home with varying degrees of success. So this is good, right? I think we need to look a bit deeper. Pizza can still be on the menu once a week, classed as a vegetable. French fries will be found, also no more than once a week. Some critics say these two foods were included because of pressure from such foods producers as ConAgra, Schwans and other – large suppliers of school lunch programs.
First Lady Michelle Obama announced the new meal standards during a guest appearance at Parklawn elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia. The President and the First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and USDA is now in step with them to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger. Or should I say both the President and first Lady and the USDA are finally approaching Chef Lynda in focusing on children’s health.
Lou Ann Berardi
It was early Sunday morning and my 7 year old was softly tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up. He softly asks, “Papai can we make breakfast in bed for Mamae?” I turn and look at my wife sleeping soundly and look back at my son and say, “Let’s do it.” We go out to the kitchen and I ask him what he is thinking he wants to make for breakfast. “Pancakes, I want to add some orange rind and some of that Raspberry Syrup to the mix, we also have fresh strawberries we can cut up and give Mamae something special today.”
This type of thinking is becoming common place in the household. He is now discovering and inventing different ways to create flavor and spicing in many of the foods we cook. On this morning it was pancakes but he makes suggestions for many other things which I indulge whole heartedly. Sometimes they work, sometimes not, but after teaching him how to cook for the last 3 years he is thinking like a chef and that makes my heart feel so wonderful.
When you mention the idea of cooking with kids to people the image that invariably comes up in their minds is that of baking chocolate chip cookies or making Rice Crispy treats. The raised eyebrows and knee jerk reactions from parents when you explain that you really teach your child how to cook are commonplace. From my personal experience the rewards that both the parent and child gain are extraordinary. For me the quality time is irreplaceable and we talk about nutrition, flavor, healthy eating along with virtually everything else. When boys are concentrating on something else the information you get in the conversation is honest and it just flows. Those things that boys don’t normally open up about when you ask direct questions now just comes out naturally.
For my son, he feels empowered to experiment in the kitchen (with my oversight of course) and he wants to eat what he helps create. So green beans, broccoli, spinach, squash and more are all now standard fare at dinner, he wants to try new stuff and his palette in all things is diverse. He may not like everything but he does not shy away from new dishes. He doesn’t realize it but these skills will last him a lifetime. Eating healthy, having balanced meals, cooking from scratch are all being taught to him without him even knowing it.
By the way the pancakes were remarkable. Not only did he make mom’s day with a fantastic breakfast in bed that was out of the blue for no reason other than he wanted to make her happy, but his self satisfaction of thinking and creating such an amazing meal will grow his confidence in many other areas outside of just the kitchen.
Cooking with Kids Foundation
The Directors of Cooking with Kids all contribute to our Blog and each comes with a different skill set and point of view. Here you can find information on nutrition, cooking technique, tips to get kids to eat healthy and much more.