It seems everyone is worried about our children’s eating habits, from First Lady Michele Obama to celebrity chef Jaime Oliver. And there’s good reason to be concerned. Almost one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, and kids in close to half a million families don’t get enough of the right foods to eat. These statistics mean that many young people are not fit enough for military service, and are much more likely to develop life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Cooking with Kids
Even families who can afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables struggle to feed themselves and their children healthy food. It seems easier and quicker to pick up pizza or take-out fried chicken at the end of a busy day than to cook a meal from fresh ingredients. Kids are bombarded with advertising messages for candy, sugary cereals, and fast food every day and demand those instead of fresh, unprocessed foods. Eating habits are formed in childhood, however, so parents need to be firm and set a good example. Don’t buy food that you know is not nutritious. Keep take out to no more than one night a week, and involve your kids in meal preparation. Even young children can set the table or wash salad ingredients or mash potatoes. Cooking and eating together are the first steps in lifelong good nutrition.
Aware of children’s needs, JCC early-childhood-education centers are transforming their food policies, moving from cookies, pretzels, and apple juice to carrot and zucchini sticks, water, and orange slices. Birthday cupcakes have given way to fresh fruit salad, and in those JCCs that serve lunch in their ECE centers, whole wheat pasta and grilled chicken have taken the place of breaded chicken nuggets and French fries. At some JCCs, preschoolers are involved with the community garden and enjoy eating the veggies that they helped to grow!
JCC Association is a proud partner of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which aims to reduce childhood obesity in one generation, and has committed to involving one-third of JCCs and JCC camps in food-related projects within three years. These include JCC gardens, community supported agriculture programs, farmer’s markets, and fresh-food collections to donate to food pantries.
Start those healthy eating habits tonight with one of Jaime Oliver’s chopped salad recipes.