Marrying nutrition and cooking

I have a confession to make: I think nutrition is boring…

I know.

You start talking about calories and fat… you’ll lose me the first time you say “gram.”

BUT I love to cook. I must own more than twenty-five cookbooks. One of my favorite things to do is to open a cookbook, choose a recipe, go shopping for ingredients (invariably I’m missing one thing in my cupboards), and then create a delicious meal.

It’s a lot harder to find time to make elaborate dinners when you are a working mom. Those care-free days are gone. Over the past year I have been forced to start meal planning. That means every week I sit down and write out what we are going to eat every night and then I write a grocery list based upon what I want to make. And as much as I dragged my feet over confining myself to a “restrictive” meal plan, coming home after a long day and knowing what I will be making for the family is really, really nice.

Why is nutrition so dull and cooking so dynamic? My reasoning: Nutrition is the “theory” and cooking is the “practice.” Let’s combine them to make our students well-rounded and knowledgeable about wellness.

So how can we get kids excited about nutrition? By teaching them how to cook. I mean, how fun is it to stir, flip, and fry? Bake, roll, and rise? Kids won’t even know they are learning. It’s like a science experiment with dirty dishes as the only downside.

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80 Responses to Marrying nutrition and cooking

  1. Phil March 19, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    @ashleylaura85

    They still have them but no longer make them a required course. Or at least where I went to school they considered fashion design a home economics class. Nowadays I guess you need to worry about STDs sluts, and man whores they focus on that more than nutrition in required health classes

  2. frogfarm March 19, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Phil, when you're done playing with the others, perhaps you could take just a moment to respond to the sum and substance of my post? Believe it or not, I'm interested in what you have to say if it presents an argument instead of attacking a person or making pointless assumptions about them. Even if other people here do the same, it behooves you to take the moral high ground and refrain from continuing the cycle of ad hominem. It's the right thing to do, and ensures that the remnant will actually read and consider your words.

  3. Phil March 19, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    Frofarm,

    I believe that parents expect to much from the schools and expect them to do whats right with raising them. I think people need to understand that even though schools don't offer the best lunches its not the schools fault. Like some above posters said the food is horrible. This is is just pure assumption but are schools in rich parts of the country going to have the same food as a school in inner city Chicago. I think its all about money. Where I went to school we had 4 options. 2 lines were hot lunches and the other 2 were cold sandwiches and a salad bar. I agree with a lot of what you have to say in your post its called "parents" everyone once in a while you see a talk help my 2 year old is 100 pounds. All of that it the parents fault and no one else. Same with the school lunches. Could the food be better yes but all in all I think it falls all on the parents. If more people would speak up and make their voices heard it would make a difference. I understand why Mrs Q is hiding her name cause like she said she likes her job but I don't think hiding is the best way either. But like I said over and over again on here complaining wont do a damn thing it never does. If this Blog opens peoples eyes and people stand up and take action and try to do something I will applaud Mrs Q for this blog but America is just to damn lazy. There are currently 3132 followers on this blog how many of those people will try and take a stand?

  4. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    I'm one of the ones that just read your story on ABC.com. My hat's off to you, lady. You are doing a phenominal job. Thank you for what you are doing.

  5. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    Phil…21 years old and 2 kids already? Learn to use protection.

  6. Phil March 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    Why because I am not the type that wanted a party life that I have my goals in life in order and could not be happier with where I am at now and the direction I am heading. Oh and when you try to have kids you dont where protection it kinda defeats the purpose

  7. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    from the comments you have made, you are one of the ones that shouldn't be having kids phil. learn how to spell, too. wear, not where.

  8. vagabondindigo March 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    I believe they used to do that. It was called Home Economics, and incorporated all sorts of things like cooking, cleaning, sewing etc.

    By the time I hit high school it was well on its way out. I am 34 years old, and grew up in rather rural Alaska, where home Ec probably survived in schools longer than most of the urban US, but alas is now gone.

    I am a generation born of hard working feminists. I sometimes think home ec went the way of hair nets and support hose for many women. it became an icon of feminine servitude expectations. I can still remember my grandmother's horror at the idea of me NOT taking home ec (which I did not). She wondered how I would find a husband if I didnt know how to cook?

    While I am still single I have discovered, as have many women of my generation, the joys of home life. I love to cook just as you said above; peruse a cookbook – get all the ingredients – challenge myself with one food item I do not normally shelve – and see how it goes. I also sew and craft in a BIG way.

    It is possible to be feminine and do those things. It may be impossible to eat healthy consistently and NOT understand cooking and how it all comes together.

    I actually found my favorite of your guest bloggers the gentleman in Japan. I find the idea of teaching our children cooking and the respect and ceremony that can accompany eating together to be inspiring.

  9. janalynch March 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    i completely agree on the benefits of using a meal plan. it's something that i do in my own home for many of the reasons you listed, as well as budgetary ones. with regard to making nutrition fun, we as parents have a responsibility to that. but teaching kids to cook is hard to do when so many adults do not know how to do it! we, as adults, need to start doing a better job of modeling those skills for our kids.

  10. Kathryn Grace March 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Cooking is almost the perfect learning environment. Children learn math and science, improve their language skills, become familiar with a variety of tools and their safe use, hone their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, learn about their bodies and the best ways to fuel them, and can learn which fuels (foods) work better for different activities.

    What foods best fuel the brain before a test? Which foods will help the muscles work harder in a race and which foods will slow the muscles down? Which foods help you sleep better at night? Inherent in each of these questions are plenty of opportunities to teach biology, chemistry and, again, math.

    Learning about nutrition is a fabulous side effect of learning all the rest, wouldn't you say?

  11. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    Hey… I submitted the ABC story to fark.com and they published it. Could be a busy day, comment wise. Keep it up.

  12. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Don't talk to "Phil" and he will go away. His comments run from 7:52 am to 2:49 pm…He obviously doesn't go outside much and is desperate for any kind of human attention (Anyone who's first comments involve racist terms and women bashing obviously is looking for reaction, especially since he is obviously clicking his computer's "refresh" button for hours in anticipation for other people's reactions to his comments.) Don't bother talking about his "life" because I doubt if any of it is true. Any 21 year old with 2 kids would be at work, school, household chores or doing a MILLION children-related responsibility tasks in the morning and afternoon when his posts were made. With the attention he's seeking, the racist views he has and the spelling errors he makes, my guess is that he is single, lonely, out of shape, not exactly the smartest guy and probably is still living in the room next to his mother. Just ignore attention-seeking posts and he'll eventually find another place online that will give him attention.

    On a side note, my name is Phil and I'm 24 so now I'm just referencing myself as Anonymous so it doesn't look like "Phil" has a split personality. Lol

    I love the blog. Growing up with school lunches in San Francisco was awful, most of the lunches were just thrown away. Doesn't look like they've changed much.

  13. Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Wow! Great blog! It's been a long time since I was in public school and it seems that school lunches are getting worse! Just out of curiosity, have you blogged about New York City limiting the number of PTA bake sales because the homemade treats are "unhealthy", but allowing bake sales with prepackaged goods? There was an interesting segment on NPR this morning about it.

  14. zahirah March 19, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Personally, I don't pay much attention to "nutrition." I think that if a person consumes a variety of fresh fruit and veggies and small amounts of protein, and limits or avoids dairy, grains, and processed food, they're fine.

  15. Alyse March 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    Phil:
    Who are you to say we are just complaining and doing nothing? Did you know that this morning I fired off a few emails to my state senators and the White House? That I visited the farm to school website to see what I could do for my state?
    As a parent I'm sure you know that suggesting a tax hike at a PTA meeting is sorta a$$backwards. That's what legislature is for. Also, I severely doubt my concerns for school lunches would be listened to at a PTA meeting as I don't have children.
    I would totally support a higher school tax. I would prefer to shell out a few more dollars from my paycheck or my bills if it would make school lunches more nutritious. I would prefer that than having obese/diabetic/sick children dying or spending the rest of their short lives as such.
    Frofarm is right, your opinions/solutions are interesting and a possible fix. However, could you perhaps lose the antagonizing tone? As I said before, you don't know us, what we stand for, or what we do in our time away from this blog.

  16. Amanda March 20, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Phil lost me as soon as he started bashing women in his first comment. I feel sorry for his mother, and if he can't voice his ideas without insulting over half the population of the Earth, then I don't think I have to listen to him.

    Anyway, I think Mrs. Q is right that teaching kids to cook can help. My mom taught me to cook and got me a couple of children's cookbooks when I was a kid. I think her idea was to have my sister and I cook dinner for her for a change once in a while, LOL, but she had no idea what monster she had created, because now she complains I'm a total "food snob" because I've ended up surpassing her in cooking skill (too bad I can't say the same about house cleaning).

    I think another thing that helps is gardening, though I understand this isn't feasable for everyone. I'm trying to figure out why I've always liked vegetables while so many people (not just kids) hate them. Maybe it's because I've always had a backyard veggie garden. My mom always let me help in the garden when I was a kid, and it seemed like such an accomplishment when we finally got to pick that zucchini I remembered planting from a little seed a few months before.

    That's why I like the idea of school gardens. It sounds like a good thing for kids who may not be able to have veggie gardens at home, and they can learn all kinds of things about biology, geology, meteorology, and I don't know what else (I'm a science geek, so that's what I think of) in the garden.

    Besides, if kids don't have recess anymore (apparently), it'll get them out in the sun for a bit of vitamin D too!

  17. Node of Ranvier March 20, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    Phil:
    What's the point of hurting others and being a bully, seriously?

    To Mrs. Q:
    Thank you for making this blog about the school lunches. I graduated from my high school last year and I still remember the awful food and the vending machines they have there. Your blog may be a small voice in this world but one day, it will be a voice of millions of parents and students! An organization, maybe! Just keep up the awesome work!

  18. Rachael March 20, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    A couple of my favorite school-related memories were from cooking. We made green eggs & ham in first grade, apple sauce in I believe second, and in third we made peanut butter, banana & cashew sandwiches (on wheat I believe) and no-bake cookies, and in 4th we made a stew I believe. All of the items were inspired by books that we were reading-what a great way to bring a book to life, and the teachers usually included info on nutrition as part of the lesson. I loved home ec in middle school-lots of food & fun memories from those years too!

  19. Anonymous March 20, 2010 at 5:40 am #

    Madame, im a swedish guy with a great interest in both taste and health regarding all food in all parts of society and i have to hand it to you, youre doing a great job.
    Most of the pictures and the way that you are describing the food at your school is more than enough to make my blood boil.

    Keep up the good work.
    /Solo Baltzer

    Ps. im going to the us next year and since im inspired of your blog im going to drop in on every school i cross to try the food.

  20. Catherine McCord March 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    LOVING your blog. We have to figure a way to feed our kids healthy, balanced lunches that are actually easy for parents to prepare! Or at least get the schools doing the same.

  21. Catherine McCord March 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    LOVING your blog. We have to figure a way to feed our kids healthy, balanced lunches that are actually easy for parents to prepare! Or at least get the schools doing the same.

  22. foodwoman March 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    The mass media would have us believe that "nutrition" is about combatting: fat, calories, salt, sugar…okay, so what about vitamins and minerals and whole grains and food that does not contain manufactured/artificial ingredients?

    By constantly hearing that nutrition means foods low in fat, sugar, or calories we are greatly missing the point and not integrating a multitude of food varieties into our diets. In fact, fat is very good for us (see http://www.westonaprice.org/Myths-Truths-About-Nutrition.html )

    Focusing on fat, calories and the other usual suspects are a perfect way to get everyone's attention away from the topics of processed ingredients, preservatives, colorings, and other fake "food" or food-like stuff that is in most food items in America's grocery stores. Whether you find nutrition boring or not, when talking about it, I urge you to recognize you may be perpetuating a myth and enabling the processed food industry to prosper.

  23. Kara March 21, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    I think teaching kids to cook is a good first step. Most don't care how healthy a food is, they care what it tastes like.
    When teaching kids to cook they can also be introduced to different types of foods from different cultures. Some only know "hamburger" and "hot dog" fare.
    When introduced to different fare they are introduced to spices, which add flavour, which could replace salt and butter or margarine.
    Teaching kids to cook is also a practical tool. There are too many people in my generation that don't know how to cook. They think cooking a meal is as simple as plopping a frozen slab of mystery contents into a the microwave, pushing cook, and letting it fry.

  24. Talitha March 21, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    AMEN.Cooking is pretty much always going to be better for you than pre-packaged, sodium-ridden foods.

  25. Anonymous March 22, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Cooking is boring as hell. It was my least favorite class in middle school; I always tried to get the dish washing job.

    I love this blog, but this post really struck a nerve.

  26. Anonymous March 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    This looks like what I imagine the food served in prison cafeterias to be.

  27. Anonymous March 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    Great and necessary blog! Keep it up. When you look at the curriculum of what used to be "Home Ec" in the schools, it now centers on "Life Science and Skills" There is very little understanding of cooking healthy foods, coupled with the fact that eating in the home is no longer healthy, that there is no chance our children will grow up to eat healthy. I oftentimes wonder how we got so far from the basic skills of life.

  28. Viki March 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    There is a great deck of cards and ideas for utilizing them in your classroom at http://www.foodfun4kids.com/

  29. Viki March 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    http://www.foodfun4kids.com/

    is a site where you can buy a deck of cards to use with children to teach them about the foods they eat.

  30. Anonymous April 7, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    Wow. If Phil really is 21, then how sad is it to be young and have the views of a bitter, pessimistic, cranky old person? I think there's a reason Phil is not married.

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