Promoting Healthy Eating To Kids

One of the things I wish I learned in school is how to cook. Back then most of my meals were made by my mom, who is a great cook (the kind whose recipes are all in her head). But these days, I’m the one trying to figure out what to eat. And as a mother of two young children, I feel guilty going to too many fast food restaurants or heating up microwavable meals for dinner.

At Puohala Elementary School in Kaneohe last week, a group of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders were taught how to make a Super Grilled Cheese Sandwich with a Chipotle Aioli dipping sauce by Racey Biven, owner/chef of Native Feast Catering.

Chef Racey Biven

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Chef Racey Biven with students at Puohala Elementary and volunteers from the Junior League of Honolulu. Lawrence Tabudlo photos

The after-school lesson was sponsored by the Junior League of Honolulu’s Kids in the Kitchen program, which is held twice a year and meets once a week for four weeks.

“We want to teach kids healthy eating habits,” says Bernice Balete, co-chairwoman of Kids in the Kitchen. “And then we encourage the kids to go home and teach their parents what they learned and to promote healthy eating habits at home.

“Nationwide, the childhood obesity rate is on the rise, and in our schools, eating healthy doesn’t seem to be as big of a priority as it should be.”

According to the Junior League, the Kids in the Kitchen initiative was created in response to the alarming statistic that nearly one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or at risk of becoming over-weight. In addition, childhood obesity has been shown to be the leading cause of pediatric hyper-tension, and is associated with Type II diabetes, increases the risk of coronary heart disease, increases stress on the weight-bearing joints, lowers self-esteem and affects relationships with peers.

Diane Peters, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Puohala who hosted the program in her classroom, also served as chef for one of the sessions, teaching the kids to make lean turkey meatball spaghetti and a garden salad.

“The children are so excited to come, and they say they wish it could go all year long,” says Peters. “Also, they’ve told me that they go home and cook for their families. We’re just trying to provide them with healthier alternatives and things they can prepare by themselves.”

Other guest chefs included Mrs. America Lara Leimana Fonoimoana, who made chicken breast tacos, and Pat Gamble of L.H. Gamble Co., who made English muffin mini pizzas with tomatoes and low-fat mozzarella, as well as bananas rolled in orange juice and then coconut flakes for a sweeter option.

Last semester, chef Russell Siu showed the kids how to make chicken quesadillas with homemade salsa, Dean Okimoto of ‘Nalo Farms shared homemade salad dressings, and chef Rodney Uyehara served gnocchi.