Kids and teens aren’t known for their healthy eating decisions. Often, they’re depicted as craving junk food or being picky eaters who will do anything to avoid vegetables and other nutritious ingredients. Thanks to the American Heart Association’s Kids Cook With Heart program, that pattern is changing.
Kids Cook With Heart, supported locally by Kaiser Permanente, brings hands-on cooking instruction to the classroom, teaching elementary, middle and high school students about heart-healthy cooking.
Lessons start with instruction in nutrition as it pertains to the typical diet: Americans consume too much sodium, we don’t get enough servings of veggies daily and we eat too much refined sugar rather than unrefined whole grains. For the second part of the lesson, an instructor helps kids create heart-healthy recipes that represent solutions to these common problems.
When empowered to cook for themselves, kids can make healthy foods that they like. The same child who refuses to eat lima beans might happily cook up and devour a bean salad with chickpeas and kidney beans if given the chance. By putting kids in control, the program encourages them to explore healthy options and find flavors and foods that they enjoy.
Often, participants even take it upon themselves to teach their parents what they’ve learned and end up influencing their entire family’s eating habits.
In the Seattle area, James Beard Award Winning Chef Ethan Stowell has joined the American Heart Association in its efforts, visiting Kids Cook With Heart participants to impart healthy cooking tips suited to children and families.
For those who don’t know, Stowell is a powerhouse in the Seattle restaurant scene. He’s behind several much-loved restaurants including Anchovies & Olives, Bar Cotto, Goldfinch Tavern, How to Cook a Wolf, Mkt. and Red Cow and has three more restaurants slotted to open in May – and this isn’t even an exhaustive list!
Stowell is a great advocate for healthy cooking. His culinary style’s reliance on simple preparations of fresh ingredients embodies many of the lessons that the American Heart Association aims to teach.
Ultimately, the purpose of the Kids Cook With Heart program is to instill next-generation chefs with a passion for healthy cooking and the creativity needed to make healthy meals every bit as delicious as their less-than-healthy counterparts. The American Heart Association believes that education can change behavior and that helping the next generation to eat better will ensure a healthier future for all Americans.
To learn more, visit www.heart.org/kidscookwithheart.