Nutrition Education Is More Than Food Labels and Calorie Count

Nutrition Education Is More Than Food Labels and Calorie Count

Nutrition training ought to primarily give attention to meals labels, energy, and portion sizes. Or at the very least that’s what I believed.

When I landed within the diet training program in school, it felt like the proper match. I obtained to check one thing I really like: meals.

For my thesis undertaking, I created a “diet training intervention” for fifth grade college students. It was a six-session survey course on the MyPlate guidelines, salt and sugar ranges in processed meals, the best way to learn a diet label, and extra. At the tip of every session, my college students sampled a “wholesome” snack like hummus, path combine, and yogurt parfaits.

But I made an enormous mistake by excluding essentially the most fundamental training—the best way to truly incorporate dietary information in day-to-day cooking. Yes, the scholars discovered about diet. But who is aware of how a lot they really retained about grams of sugar in a soda or which greens comprise vitamin C?

After school, I sought out different alternatives to convey diet training to college students. Instead of constructing my classes round dietary science, cooking is now on the forefront.

Preventing Childhood Obesity

Nutrition training was having a second within the early 2010s, once I was learning for my diet diploma. Then-First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move! marketing campaign in 2010 with the purpose of fixing “the issue of childhood weight problems inside a technology.” This initiative helped convey extra alternatives for bodily exercise and wholesome meals decisions to colleges.

Let’s Move! got here at a time when the prevalence of childhood obesity was on the rise. Almost 17% of U.S. youth have been affected by weight problems in 2009-2010, in line with a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That share has elevated to 19.3% lately, affecting about 14.4 million youngsters and adolescents.

Studies have linked childhood weight problems to many adversarial well being outcomes, together with increased charges of fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart illness. Public well being authorities have prompt that childhood weight problems is preventable with dietary and bodily exercise modifications.

But the concept weight problems is preventable can result in emotions of disgrace for people who’re unable to reduce weight. It’s necessary to acknowledge that there are a lot of components out of a person’s management that will additionally contribute to physique weight. Children particularly don’t have a lot management over their surroundings and meals.

So I made a decision to give attention to prevention by means of educating them the best way to prepare dinner.

Hands-On Nutrition Education: Cooking Classes

When I moved to New York in 2018, I began educating cooking lessons with a neighborhood program known as Allergic to Salad. This program makes use of wholesome, nut-free vegetarian recipes to provide school-age college students hands-on expertise on cooking with complete meals.

As I train these lessons, I’ve seen how excited the scholars are to prepare dinner. And the messier the recipe, the higher. Anytime we get to mash components, like chickpeas for hummus, or whip cream for a berry mousse deal with, they’re very engaged.

While dietary science isn’t the main focus of those lessons, I speak about components alongside the best way. Students additionally construct confidence within the kitchen as they learn to chop greens (utilizing the “bear claw” grip) and measure components.

One of my favourite moments in these lessons is when the scholars style the meals they’ve made. We all eat collectively and I give them a while to take their first few bites. Then I ask in the event that they like or dislike the meals. Usually, there will probably be a pupil or two who nervously says they don’t prefer it.

“That’s OK! What don’t you want about it?” I all the time ask.

They all the time appear caught off guard by the query, as in the event that they have been anticipating that I’d be disenchanted or that I’d inform them to maintain consuming it. Instead, I need to have a dialog concerning the completely different flavors, textures, and components they discovered off-putting and what they might alter to make it yummier.

A 2019 research printed in Appetite prompt that when youngsters put together meals themselves, they’re prone to eat extra. Cooking is a “compelling exercise” that would have an effect on youngsters’s meals preferences over time, in line with the researchers.

Since the primary diet lessons I led in school, I’ve turn into extra conscious of how advanced the problem of childhood weight problems is. There are extra components at play than I imagined as a 20-year-old. Genetics, socioeconomic standing, and environmental components all play key roles within the well being outcomes of youngsters. And on the finish of the day, youngsters don’t have loads of management over what they’re fed.

As the research prompt, cooking lessons alone doubtless received’t reverse childhood weight problems charges. But as college students are uncovered to completely different complete meals components and have enjoyable within the kitchen, they could be curious and extra open to making an attempt different nutritious recipes as they grow old.

Recipe: Fig & Oats Energy Bites

My college students typically love recipes that permit them to the touch and mould the meals with their naked palms. This recipe for chewy fig and oat vitality balls was tailored from a recipe in my lessons. It’s nice to make with a gaggle as a result of there’s one thing for everybody to do. Let some children begin chopping the figs whereas others measure out the components.

Once the prep is completed, everybody can get to roll their very own vitality ball.

This recipe additionally works with a smaller group. If you need to spend some enjoyable time within the kitchen with your loved ones, this straightforward and kid-approved recipe is a superb place to start out.

These can final about one week within the fridge and are nice to whip up on the weekend to have available for a straightforward after-school snack.

I used peanut butter, however if you happen to’re allergic to nuts, you’ll be able to go for sunflower seed butter. Dried figs can be found at many grocery shops and on-line. (I get mine from Trader Joe’s.)

Stephanie Brown

Time: 1 hour
Yield: 10 vitality bites


2 tbsp rolled oats

2 tbsp recent cranberries

1/2 cup dried figs (stems eliminated)

3 tbsp peanut butter

4 tbsp coconut flakes divided

1/4 tsp floor cinnamon

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

Stephanie Brown


  1. Start by eradicating the stems from the dried figs. Cut every fig in half.
  2. Add figs, rolled oats, cranberries, peanut butter, 2 tbsp of coconut flakes, cinnamon, coconut oil, honey, lemon, and salt right into a meals processor.
  3. Blend or pulse till all the things is mixed for about 10–15 seconds. Stop the meals processor and test the consistency. You’re in search of all the things to come back collectively in a sticky dough. Keep mixing for one more 10–15 seconds at a time to ensure all of the components are totally mixed. (Depending in your blender or meals processor, this step could take extra time.)
  4. Scoop out about 1 tbsp of the combination at a time and roll it right into a ball.
  5. Place the vitality bites about 1/2 inch aside in a container and retailer them within the fridge for half-hour.
  6. After half-hour, take away the vitality bites from the fridge. Then unfold the remaining coconut flakes on a plate, and roll the bites round within the coconut flakes.
  7. Enjoy!

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