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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Children


Getting kids in the kitchen


kids trying healthy foodsHavlynn Stapleton, 8, liked the dried dates. Atyia Jackson, also 8, enjoyed the peaches, while her sister, Diamond, 10, favored the cashews. And Debra Marion, 7, liked it all.


The Columbia girls had just finished eating the snack they had made ― banana bats with fresh and dried fruits, nuts and peach yogurt.


“It was fun eating that because the taste went into my mouth, and I swallowed it and it tasted good,” Debra said. “And I liked all of it, and I hope everybody did, too, because whoever did, they’re lucky.”


Banana bats are one of the recipes in University of Missouri Extension's Kids in the Kitchen curriculum, which shows school children that healthy foods can taste good.


“It's amazing how much kids love to eat fresh produce and to be able to prepare their own things,” said Amy Hoffman, Kids in the Kitchen coordinator at Columbia's Fun City Youth Academy. “Kids are much more likely to eat something that they've prepared as opposed to something that is put in front of them.”


Kids in the Kitchen emphasizes basic cooking skills, healthy food choices, food safety and physical activity. Younger children learn to prepare simple snacks, while teens prepare an entire meal that includes the five food groups.


Catchy names like “banana bats” help children remember the lessons. The hands-on experiences make nutrition and physical activity concepts, like eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day, more meaningful to children, said Candance Gabel, family nutrition education program coordinator for MU Extension.


“If we can get people to do that starting at the age of 5 through 105, we'd all be healthier,” Gabel said.


If the child gets to prepare the food, they are more likely to try new foods and make healthier choices,” she said.


Gabel said parents have many ways to involve even young children. “At an early age, children can help cut up vegetables or tear up lettuce using plastic knives,” Gabel said. Setting the table, getting ice for glasses and making the family grocery list are other ways.


When parents give their children the chance to help with meals, Gabel said, “We have to step back and let them do it, and we have to not be too critical about how they get the job done.”


In order for families to stretch their dollars or food stamps benefits as far as they can go, it is important to choose fresh, nutritious foods that are more filling and will provide the nutrients that everyone in the family needs. When children are exposed to and start asking for healthy foods, that may influence the family to start making healthier choices as well.


MU Extension began offering Kids in the Kitchen as a summer or after-school program three years ago. This summer is the first time for Fun City Youth Academy, though the two programs have worked together for many years, said Barbara Walker, Fun City executive director.


“Extension is very much a key partner,” Walker said.


For more information, contact Candance Gabel at 573-884-6388


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Last update: Wednesday, November 07, 2012