I am so excited to share with you my cooking class I did with a group of kids. I had five girls total in the class (two boys were sick). The lesson couldn’t have gone better. The girls were excited the moment they walked in the door.
Before we got started I told the girls we were going to make tacos. This got them enthusiastic before we had even gotten underway! One of the most important things when working with kids and food is to get them enthusiastic about what they are familiar with. This makes it easier to slip in the healthier, unprocessed options without anyone noticing. One the girls heard “tacos” they were so pumped it was like they already decided they were going to love what it tasted like.
We started off the class talking about whole foods vs. processed foods. No one really knew how to describe whole food (without mentioning the grocery store), but they knew exactly what processed food was. One girl used the world “chemicals” to describe processed foods. That got the conversation going about the difference between the two, and why this is important to know. I even gave them the challenge to go a whole day without processed food; they all seemed excited about the challenge, and said they thought they could do it.
We also talked about the colors of the rainbow and how it is important to fill your plate with different colors. The girls took turns and named many different fruits and veggies of different colors, I was impressed they came up with a better list than I did! I made sure to ask them if I could eat a plate of skittles since they are different colors, they said no, that’s processed! I LOVE that they recognized the difference between a plate of fruit and veggies, and a handful of skittles.
After our conversation we headed over to the kitchen to start chopping. I had the girls help me with all of the veggies (with the exception of cutting onions, they smartly assigned that job to me!) I was very impressed with their knife skills and patients. One girl was chopping at a time; we worked it like an assembly line. I would show them how to cut a bell pepper, and one by one each girl would try it.
After all of our veggie chopping we started on the guacamole. I let the girls decide what we were going to put in it. They all agreed lots of garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, onion and some salt and pepper. Each girl added different ingredients as they took turns stirring and mashing the avocados. Then came time for the “taste test”, one of the THE most important concepts in the kitchen if you ask me(if you don’t check to make sure it tastes right, then how will you know if you seasoned it properly). Each girl grabbed a bell pepper and dipped it in the guacamole bowl (no double dipping of course), and shared with the group of they thought it needed anything. They all said it tasted perfect, one girl even said it “tastes like heaven”.
After chopping and preparing the veggies, we got to sautéing. We had one pan on the stove with three different colored bell pepper, onion, garlic and spices. Then we had another pan going for the turkey meat, which a few girls decided we should add some sautéed onions and garlic to for extra flavor (I loved the way these girls were thinking!)
Throughout the cooking I made sure to ask the girls questions about whether the food was processed or not. And we even talked about what we could do to the meal if we wanted to add more colors of the rainbow (they agreed a fruit salad would go perfectly).
I loved the passion and excitement the girls had for what we were cooking. They loved being able to pick what went into each dish, they even got to choose how we cut the veggies (diced, sliced, minced). It’s important to let kids feel their opinions and ideas are valued, especially in a setting like this where not a lot of kids usually get to pick the meal that is made each night.
I made a lot of observations during this lesson but two things stood out the most to me. As we were preparing the veggies I brought out a bag of baby spinach to be torn and used as a topping, if the girls chose. One girl immediately told me she did not like spinach, and I said “that’s okay you don’t have to eat something that you don’t like, as long as you try it once, that’s all I ask.” I didn’t make it a big deal, or go off on how I love spinach and it’s so good for you. I kept it short and sweet validated her feelings and moved on. When it came time to pick her toppings for her taco she loaded it with spinach! I didn’t make it a big deal or say anything but inside I did a little dance because I was so excited to see her eating it! Another girl had told me she never had bell pepper before, and we were all eating it raw because we sliced some extra to munch on while cooking. At first she was a little taken aback by it, and only tried some with guacamole. About 30 minutes later she came up to me and said I never knew I liked these, but they are so good! It’s all about giving kids an option and not making a big deal about it. Put healthy choices in front of them and they won’t have a choice but to eat it!
Here are some tips to get your children (for the most part) to eat less processed and more whole foods:
Below you can find the amazing taco recipe that the kids loved so much, they wanted to take extra home for the their parents to try!!! I love this recipe because everyone gets to choose exactly what goes in their taco without you becoming a short-order cook! Just set up all your veggies and let the kids have fun adding their own toppings!
Optional Taco Toppings:
I asked the girls to pose for a photo and show their excitement for how much they loved making and eating their tacos. Below are the results!