In an increasingly stressful world cooking is an outlet for kids to learn healthy habits, build confidence, enjoy community and, most importantly, have fun.
1 in 4 adolescents have a chronic health condition, such as obesity, diabetes or asthma (CDC, 2019). 40% of children are overweight (The Doctors Pharmacy Podcast, 2021). Kids are under a tremendous amount of stress both physically and psychologically with nutrition, or lack of nutrition in our modern, processed food world. There are significant increases in youth anxiety, depression, ADHD, school violence and behavioral issues. Studies have shown that the quality of a child’s diet has an impact on their development, mood, behavior and overall well-being.
So, how can we help kids cope with an increasingly stressful world? It is clear that stress is not going away. What we can do is teach kids tools on how to self regulate such as breathing, painting, movement and by creating community and connection. Another way? Give the junior chefs a knife and get 'em in the kitchen.
Studies show that children who are involved in the cooking process can develop life long healthy eating habits. I am a cooking instructor with Kids Cooking for Life, a non-profit that inspires lifelong healthy cooking and eating habits through cooking classes that serve students from low-income communities, Title 1 schools and students with special needs. Establishing healthy behaviors at a young age can help set our children up for success.
In fall 2020 we launched Kids Cooking at Home, a series of all virtual cooking classes. Every week our junior chefs received a meal kit with a new recipe and fresh ingredients. Via Zoom, I guided them through recipe reading, measuring, chopping, cooking, plating and eating the meal. Each lesson was based off Kids Cooking for Life’s For Pillars of Healthy Eating:
1. All in with Whole Grains
2. Eat the Rainbow
3. Lean on Protein
4. Be Sugar Smart
My favorite part was at the end when the junior chefs shared the meal with their family at home. They were so proud of what they created in the kitchen. Was it chaotic? Yes. Do some kids HATE tomatoes? Yes. Did we have fun? YES. Here are some shots of my junior chefs crushing it in the kitchen.
Whole Grain Veggie Pizza
Fresh Strawberry and Cottage Cheese Filled Crepes
Rainbow Mac & Cheese
Community creates resilience and kids cooking creates community. I encourage you to include junior chefs in your kitchen to build confidence, resilience & health.
CDC. April 1, 2019. Healthy Schools: How CDC Helps Students Get a Healthy Start. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/healthy-schools.htm
The Doctors Pharmacy Podcast. May 26, 2021. What Our Kids Don’t Learn In School Is The Key To Their Success And Happiness with Goldie Hawn. Retrieved from: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-our-kids-dont-learn-in-school-is-key-to-their/id1382804627?i=1000523149502