1/3 of Americans will be diabetics by 2050. This is why we need Healthy Cooking Class at School.
Why aren’t we learning about food at school? Why do we warn our kids about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs while skipping one of the biggest killers of our societies : food ?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% of the U.S. adult population (around 25 million people) has now been diagnosed with diabetes and this number could reach 33% by 2050 if current trends continue.
Excess body fat (a summary measure of several aspects of diet and physical activity) is the strongest risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which accounts for more than 90% of all diagnosed cases of adults. This means that by controlling the diet and physical activity we could substantially reduce the number of diabetic people in the US.
Diabetes is known to come with more risks and complications, people suffering from this condition have increased risks of stroke, heart disease, blindness, kidney failures, nerve damage, and even amputation.
Diabetes isn’t the only disease diet-related: hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis are in many cases diet-related. Almost half of all American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor quality eating habits and physical inactivity. It’s disastrous on the human side but also for the economy, 75% of healthcare dollars are dedicated to treat these diseases.
The good news is, this is preventable, it’s not too late to change but we need to promote healthy diet and this starts at school.
It is preventable. School is the perfect setting to teach Children how to cook.
We didn’t need to learn how to cook before because it was simply harder to have an unhealthy diet before, people used to eat mostly local food and ate less meat. We weren’t always a society where fast, high-fat, processed food was common food, it’s the consumer society that encouraged the growth of food processing in the 20th century. Things have changed and it’s now crucial to develop healthy eating behaviors early.
Many children cannot differentiate between healthy and unhealthy foods because their parents have been raised in the midst of the processed food boom and lack the necessary skills to teach them how to cook healthy food. Children repeat the bad eating habits seen at home and eat several fast-food type meals with high intake of saturated fat, calories and salt.
A good diet is essential for the growth of healthful children and school is the ideal environment for implementing health promotion. The idea is not to ban junk food, the idea is to introduce food children may never have tasted. It’s about opening their appetite to tastes they don’t experience at home.
Create a Love for Cooking
Explaining what’s good and what’s not is not enough, children need to be taught how to prepare and enjoy this food. If they can’t cook it, there’s no point knowing if a meal is healthy or not. We want to teach children the love of cooking, showing them engaging ways to cook other things than fast and easy junk food. An Australian Study on the matter concluded that: “the most effective strategies for facilitating healthy eating in primary school children are enhanced curricula, cross-curricula and experiential learning approaches.”
With cooking, they will also acquire a basic life skill that few people have.Who can cook tasteful healthy food among your friends? Few. Being comfortable enough in the kitchen is important, it’s the difference between being able to make a meal with whatever is left in the fridge or having to go to the fast-food restaurant next door.
It will also create a classroom environment that students enjoy, kids would rather do maths or learn to cook. Granted maths is important but so is developing healthy habits and children’s creativity. Many chefs are regarded as artists, just like music or writing, cooking requires understanding harmonies. Anyone can mix two ingredients together but not everyone understanding the relationship between those. Trying to cook in different ways, trying to make the most out of certain ingredients fuel creativity.
What is a Healthy Diet?
That’s where things become complicated. Experts don’t really agree on what is a healthy diet. If experts don’t agree, it’s also mainly the fault of lobbies. American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics accept million of dollars from food and pharmaceutical companies. Dairy industry spends at least $50 million promoting its products in public schools, meat and dairy spend at least $138 million lobbying congress. If we promote healthy cooking in schools, we’ll have to be careful of not giving a voice to lobbies.
Experts nutritionists still found common grounds during a conference in 2015, they agreed on healthy food patterns and identified the Mediterranean Diet, Vegetarian Diet and Healthy American Diet as healthy diets. They consider a healthy diet as a diet higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.”
They also emphasized that food systems should be sustainable. “They should align with priorities for human and planetary health while supporting social responsibility and animal welfare. Diverse, localized/regionalized solutions, that reflect site-specific priorities and capabilities are more resilient and democratic. Each of us has a role to play in ensuring a healthy and sustainable global food supply.”
Sadly, dairy and meat lobbies have a say on American food policy. Meat an dairy products benefit from subsidies and are sold at an artificial price meanwhile healthier products like fruits and vegetables are more expensive. The government needs to define what sustainable food is and subsidized ot if we want children from poorer backgrounds to have a healthy diet.
And No, We Shouldn’t Let You Make Your Kids Sick.
Many parents will not agree and will get angry about this intervention in the way they are educating their children. “Nobody should tell my kids how to eat”. Well, that’s not true. If parents are failing whether it’s due to budget, time or their own inability, schools should fix the damages. No kid should ever become diabetic or develop health-related disease because his parents never teach him how to cook healthy food. We don’t have to let you take years off your kids’s life.
Schools should write off social backgrounds, and it might start with a cooking class.
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