Are youth cooking classes key to fighting youth obesity?

admin | 4/26/2012, 5:30 a.m.

The fight to help Americas youth slim down or never be overweight or obese has lead campaigns to educate adolescents about the importance of nutrition and physical exercise. The next phase of the anti-obesity campaign seems only natural it would take place in the kitchen teaching kids exactly how they should cook these nutritionally rich, calorically light foods. At Bethany Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Brownsville, Ester Handfield teaches up to 20 youth ranging in ages from 8 to 18, how to prepare breakfast, lunch, snack and desert. From stressing the importance of eating a diet based on whole grains and vegetables to teaching her students how to substitute sugar with alternatives such as apple sauce, Handfield says the youth are introduced to a whole new way of eating. Of course, the new habits can take some getting use to. When they first came to the cooking class, they didnt know what to expect, but they definitely didnt expect it be hands on, she recalled. Classes are typically held during school planning periods or holidays, when students are not required to attend school. So, far four classes have been held since January. But Handfield, who is not a professional chef, but has always had a passion for the culinary arts, knew the value of learning hands on. Because [the kids] are so active in preparing their own meals, it isnt so difficult to get them to eat different healthy foods, she explained. However, helping youth get in touch with their natural curiosity is the first step into turning them into healthy chefs. Kids are normally very eager to see and learn how to cook a meal, said Miami native and celebrity Chef Richard Ingraham. Ingraham has teamed up with his alma matter, Miami Norland Senior High School, to help the school tweak its menus and offer healthier options. The key to getting youth to eat and cook healthier is education, according to Ingraham. [Kids] feel that the food is going to be nasty thats the main thing or I have to eat grass in order to eat healthy and thats not really the case, Ingraham. The celebrity chef has also given demonstrations to teach young cooks healthy twists on traditional meals such as grilled cheese sandwich made with portobello mushrooms. I dont care what ethnic background you come from, a grilled cheese sandwich is something everyone is familiar with, he explained. but then when you add portobello mushrooms, then you can show them how to make it in a totally different way. However, cooking lessons offer the opportunity to teach more than merely how to cook, according to Handfield. Its not only about cooking, its about following directions, following safety guidelines and learning to try new things, she explained. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com