Learning To Like Vegetables!Tue 06 Sep 2011
Story by Megan McCarthy
It starts with one: one common thread of a passion for living life well and a laugh or two along the way. Eating healthy is a simple way to enjoy all the offerings that life has for us.
As the Edible Garden chef at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I have a unique opportunity to show people how easy it is to incorporate fresh foods into their everyday eating lifestyle. We pick something fresh like okra or eggplant, harvest it from the Garden, and watch it really come to life as we create a recipe in the Outdoor Kitchen, fast and fresh, for all to learn and taste. It is so rewarding when people then confess their “former” dislike of a vegetable and really want to open up their fresh food repertoire. How does it get any fresher than that?
This story is the same for kids as well as adults. I also have the opportunity to teach kids simple ideas about the foods they are choosing and how cool it is to like vegetables. It is about getting them in a garden, seeing where food actually comes from, and then getting them into the kitchen to figure out what to create with that fresh produce.
It is also about getting them motivated and to help them understand what it is like to feel good and to be energized, naturally. Some kids have never even had a fresh blueberry and it is inspiring when they eat everything we make and want more. I let them know that they are so important to our future and that we need them to teach their parents how to keep them healthy.
I started recognizing this need several years ago when I was teaching middle school kids in my “healthy cooking” classes at Whole Foods Market in Chicago. The kids were astonished that all this good food was never shown to them and saw how easy it was for them to put together these healthier food choices at home. After class, we would do a guided tour around the store. They were so excited just to know where to find the items we had used in class and then would go home and tell their parents so they could recreate it again. I also believe that licking their plates clean during class is a good indicator of their enthusiasm!
It is so important what the kids are eating that we are also teaching lunchroom staff how to prepare fresh and nutritious options at school. There have been many programs started here in GA by very enthusiast parents, teachers and lunch staff that really understand and want to see all the kids excel.
Georgia Organics has been a huge part of the Farm-to-School program as well as the chefs that are going in and showing the lunch staffs how to prep fresh veggies and entrees for the lunch line. Kids are giving the thumbs up and the number of school lunches has increased due to better offerings at participating schools. Farm-to-school is alive and well in Georgia!
About the author: Megan McCarthy, of Healthy Eating 101, is a healthy lifestyle consultant and chef who teaches kids and adults about how incorporate fresh food into their everyday lifestyles. She is the Edible Garden Chef at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and also teaches healthy cooking classes where she focuses on simple, fast and fresh recipes. She has been teaching healthy cooking classes for several years and showing people how easy it is to eat healthier, so naturally, she started her involvement in the Let’s Move campaign to help fight childhood obesity as well as teaching inner-city kids cooking and nutrition. She is also on the board of directors for Healthy Kids across America Foundation, teaching kids about healthy eating, exercise and positive self-esteem development.
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