Nutrition & Children: Education is Essential

kid in the kitchen

Schools are trying to improve the quality and the nutrients of lunches served in their cafeterias, but I’m not sure this is enough. How are the students learning that the pizza being replaced by chicken and rice is more beneficial? They may be told the new foods are healthier, but they may not know why. Since school is a teaching ground, why not make a 2-day a week cooking class a requirement?

Sure, some children will complain, but kids are already complaining that their favorite home economics classes were taken away. We need them back. In a fantasy world, all parents teach their children basic life skills, but in reality, many don’t even know how to boil water when they become adults. Schools need to teach our youths every aspect to lead a healthy life.

These cooking classes would replace the normal lunch hour so the students can eat the food they make in class. The instruction would include how to cook foods without adding too much fat (such as baking instead of frying), what foods are healthy, what foods are unhealthy, and explanations on the right combinations of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

Since more and more people have food allergies, these meals would be made without the top allergens: nuts, milk, wheat, gluten, eggs, shellfish and soy. The instructors would be provided with this prohibited foods list with suggested replacements. For instance coconut milk would be used instead of dairy milk. Olive oil or coconut oil would be used instead of butter. Egg replacer would stand in place of eggs. There are many gluten-free and wheat-free pastas in the supermarkets today so this is definitely feasible.

A list of the month’s meals with a breakdown of ingredients and product names would be provided to the parents and students. Copies of ingredient labels would be provided when asked. If there was a question or concern, the contact information for that month’s instructors would be provided. All dishes would need to be approved by a school’s appointed registered dietician in advance. Packaged products not on the approved list would need to be pre-approved by this RD to prevent any allergic reactions. Students with allergies would be allowed to talk to their peers in this class about their reactions to certain foods to foster understanding and education. These students would get extra credit for engaging the classroom to encourage participation for the allergic children. No one should feel like an outsider because of an allergy. Students can also opt out of the school’s cooking classes for any reason; this is to protect those with multiple food allergies who are not comfortable in this setting.

Not all dishes need to be cooked. Salads, and fruit and vegetable plates can be made raw. Some items can be cooked in a microwave. Old microwaves can be donated to the schools. Local stores can also donate cutting boards, utensils, plates and safe cutting tools. Students can sign up to get extra credit for cleanup. Specific foods can be collected from food drives. Grocery stores can donate foods too. This doesn’t have to be a pricey endeavor. Price shouldn’t be a top concern. These are our children and our future.

These cooking and education classes may not prevent the obesity epidemic, but it may promote healthier body weights. When these children become adults and start cooking meals for themselves, they will be armed with a wonderful array of information that many people today don’t have a clue about. I think it could work. What do you think?

Photo: me when I was 6 years old

4 Comments on “Nutrition & Children: Education is Essential

  1. I agree! The girl in the photo is adorable:) I love this idea. My daughters, who are in middle school, actually are taught nutrition by their PE teacher. Incorporating your ideas into an already existing curriculum should make it even easier on schools. Great blog topic!

    • Thanks Kim. Your daughters’ PE teacher gets an “A” from me. That’s fabulous that s/he teaches nutrition. I didn’t even know they had PE anymore!

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