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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: College students could benefit from cooking classes

    We brush it under the rug frequently in favor of focusing on other more pressing issues, but childhood obesity (and obesity in general) is a major public health concern in this country. One in three children and adolescents are overweight, according to the American Heart Association.

    As far as solutions, there are all the usual steps that have been meekly tried and ultimately failed: “healthier” school lunches (a cup of three slices of canned peaches in syrup is not exactly going to fix the issue), required “physical education” in school (the easiest class in the world to make an excuse and not have to actively participate in) and encouraging parents to feed their kids better food (a busy parent equals McDonalds for dinner with an added sense of guilt).

    However, what we have not seemed to have adequately attempted is teach kids to cook. The major reason kids refuse healthy foods is because they do not taste good. Well, yes, if you eat plain steamed broccoli it’s going to taste bland and awful to most people. But if you add some sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger, you end up with a flavorful, saucy broccoli dish that is far more palatable and dare I say, good.

    The majority of uncooked and unflavored healthy food is rather undesirable. Plain tofu is just white, condensed mush; but if you flavor it and bake it, it’s supposed to be akin to the flavor and texture of chicken. Similarly, with nearly all vegetables, they will actually taste good when cooked and flavored properly.

    It seems what we ought to do is teach children how to cook healthier food from an early age. We label children as being codependent and unable to perform tasks for themselves, and to some extent, of course this is true. But there is no reason a 10-year-old should not be able to cook a simple healthy meal for his or herself, with the proper guidance and teaching.

    Trading out, or at least balancing out, physical education class with a cooking class in elementary and middle schools seems like a feasible and ultimately more fruitful endeavor in terms of mitigating youth obesity rates.

    All we have to do is teach kids how to make the right foods taste good and they will likely start to opt for the healthier options — especially if their taste buds are accustomed to healthier foods from a young age.

    Additionally, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with learning a new skill and being able to provide for oneself. Knowing this, kids would not only learn how to be healthier through such cooking classes, but they would feel proud of themselves and thus more inclined to use their newfound health food skills outside of the classroom.

    For some reason, we neglect the fact that knowing how to cook is literally a necessary skill for survival. Yes, technically you could eat out your whole life, but there are bound to be periods of your life when that is not financially possible and eventually, it just won’t even be desirable anymore.

    Let’s put healthy food cooking classes in primary schools and begin the road to recovery from obesity. It should be worth a shot! If better-for-you food tasted better, inevitably it would be consumed with higher frequency and higher spirits.

    Follow Talya Jaffe on Twitter.

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