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NUTRITION FORUM Can chefs help to combat childhood obesity?

Thumb_img_0759_2 LindaHall 32 posts

Michelle Obama is calling on chefs to get involved in the fight against childhood obesity by volunteering at a local school and working with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to help kids learn about food and nutrition. The thought is that if chefs create good tasting dishes that have healthy nutritional profiles, children will be more likely to eat better food.  Chefs would be asked to volunteer to develop the dishes to meet both nutritional and budgetary guidelines.

While this sounds like an interesting idea, I can’t help but wonder how many chefs have time for this?  Is this something you could put on your plate?  Even if the dishes are developed, could the schools in your area execute them?  

Any thoughts on this?


Thumb_j0309662 SCookwork 9 posts

It is great, if chefs have time to volunteer at schools to help teach kids to eat healthier and to appreciate a variety of good foods, but I am not sure this is realistic for the following reasons:

1.Chefs are busy people and for this program to be successful, it will take more than one experience for change to occur.  I’m not sure how many chefs have 2 days they can spare (even if it is only for a few hours each time), let alone the many weeks of regular exposure. 

2. Is it possible to prepare healthy, nutritious, well balanced meals for
kids for $2.68 per meal?

3. Many kids are not adventurous eaters and it often takes 10-15 exposures to a food item for them to accept it.  Giving them good tasting dishes a few times, may not be enough to get them to try the dish.

4. When talking about the National School Lunch Program, in order to be eligible for supplemented lunches, many of these student’s families are active in government assistance programs – families who will not be able to afford a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and who try to spread their dollar as far as they can.  These kids are at the highest risk for limited exposure to a variety of foods, thus potentially the pickiest eaters.

When I was in school, I was a part of a very successful program to introduce inner city kids to different fruits and vegetables in NYC, however this took a committment on the school’s part, funded by a non-profit.  It is a 12 week program in which we went into the schools and had the kids prepare a dish or two using specific fruits/vegetables each week.  Although this program has been studied and proven successful, every week, a good percentage of what we made ended up in the trash.  It is a long process to get people to change their eating habits, but definitely possible…


Thumb_weemee%20chef FrediLev 19 posts

I taught a 10-week nutrition class to 3rd graders a few years ago.  The kids who had parents who provided them a more balanced diet and who talked with them about food choices really got the information.  The kids who ate whatever they wanted, didn’t really pay attention and didn’t seem to care.  I think a lot of this goes back to the food decisions parents make with regards to their children.  We can’t expect chefs, schools or the government to have have that much of an impact if this isn’t supported at home.

Thumb_img_3790-1 knifethrower 13 posts

With schools cutting back to 4 day weeks and 8 month long school years, its going to be an uphill battle to get culinary arts BACK IN. Pathetic, isn’t it?


That said, the first thing that needs to change is what the schools’ governing food service agency calls food. And it needs to be linked to a basic survival skills class, one mandatory for graduation. If one cannot feed themselves, read, write and such, look what happens… you are seeing that in real time, right now!


As a child of someone who took the time to make sure I could feed myself as an adult  (but not balance a checkbook- some parents are not perfect), I am still, to this day, the one who never uses crap in a can, does not own a microwave and is not obese. And no, I am not independently wealthy either. I just choose to eat well and I stay within my means.


Being a culinary grad, I would LOVE to get more involved in teaching kids AND grownups how to cook. And yes, I do believe that a nutritious, non- carb-laden meal that tastes out of this world can exist for $2.68 a serving. Shame on the schools that cut corners and kudos to the ones that do it right, with real kids getting real exposure to real foods.

Thumb_j0309662 SCookwork 9 posts

I fully agree that is seems like an uphill battle when education continues to suffer cutbacks. Elective classes that teach basic survival skills like culinary arts should be put back into the education system, if only to teach kids how to read and follow recipes so they realize that food isn’t just what comes from the take out counters or from a can.

Unfortunately in our society, schools are being held responsible for teaching kids more than what used to be the standard curriculum as more families rely on dual incomes and parents are not fulfilling their role as a role model and teacher to their kids. Kids eat more meals in a year away from school than at school and their food preferences stem from what they have been exposed to from an early age. So, even if healthier meals are served at school, that doesn’t mean kids will eat it, if it is their first exposure to such foods. There are a lot of different parts that need to fall into place for this problem to be tackled.

Icon_missing_thumb Oeuftete 1 post

In Canada we have provincial guidelines that are being integrated for school cafeterias with ceilings on fat, sodium, calories etc. for both the products/ingredients being used and the completed dishes – I think this is a great step in the right direction for the health of our children.  Needless to say, this involves a return to more ‘scratch’ cooking for many schools – a potentially pricey one in terms of labour.  The interesting thing to know would be this – for middle and high schools where the kids are more apt to travel off of school grounds during their lunch break, are they opting to visit local fast food and pizza chains rather than eat at the nutritionally mandated cafeteria?  I think the answer would be yes!  How can chefs help?  Ensure that the mindset of ‘balance’ and ‘better for you’ methods and techniques are a part of current culinary programs for the chefs of tomorrow – there are many culinary opportunities outside of WTC, restaurant, hotel etc. in Non-Commercial and Institutional settings that will be looking for chefs who understand the need for healthy alternatives, sticking like glue to standardized recipes and making delicious food with less dependance on the salt shaker.

Thumb_36947_137394676271346_100000024430531_388679_950608_n XellosBlackF... 3 posts

In Malaysia, obesity is not an issue at school cafe. In South East Asia, veges are a MUST (esp the bitter ones), due to financial & health reasons. It’s all back to the roots – veggies are often combined with a small quantity of chillies, and shrimp paste = sambal as to attract the appetites of “Malay Cuisine” lovers. The only thing is that they add excessive sugar to it.


Right now the government is pushing people to reduce sugar, salt and MSG intake by fuelling up the price.. .

Thumb_379935_2774793497883_1499457218_2922165_171145264_n Porcelina1023 47 posts

As a mom I try to control their intake and how much food is eaten as a meal. To keep it simple variable and tasty is my goal. In my household soda, ice cream, and other junk food is not allowed and kitchen is closed when I sleep
So I do inventory of my fridge to ensure everything is there and no one sneaks anything. I m tryi g to get my kids active in sports too. It’s a hard battle but I’m getting there. When my goal is reached I will give an update

Thumb_063 blacksheep 87 posts

Sorry eveyone! I know you do not like my posts. Here is a ? Is it the responsibily of Chef’s to teach the children? Or is it the responsibility of Chef’s to teach the parent’s?


I’m not political either way! Both sides don’t really get it. That said, isn’t it the responsibility of PARENTS to handle this issue? I deal w/ kids reguarly who’s parent’s allow the child to dictate what they want to eat. Is this what government wants us to do? The first lady w/ all her, I’m sure respectable desires is full of crap. Are we supposed to educate everyone? Isn’t there a government position to handle this for the people?


I do everything I can for people, children and guests. I send out a questionaire from the resort to tell me what everyone likes, dislikes, special needs and so on. Is it my job to change what people deside in their home what they eat? Yes, to a point. When a family tells me what their child eats, I bring those products in and try to make that child happy.  Do I agree w/ that? NO! However, this is not my Child! What give’s me the right to determine what that child eats. It is the Parent’s responisibilty to advise me of the food preferences.


Seriously, it is not the First Ladies’ right to expect Chef’s to controll what kid’s are eating. It’s not the right of Mother’s/Father’s right to expect teachers to raise their children. We have become a society that others should take responsibilty for the children. The First Lady is Wrong to Assume dietary needs when parents will go to the drive thru.


Is it our job to teach parents how to cook healthy at home? Yes! But celebraty chefs teach how to make things quick and easy out of a can! Find a new cause Mrs. Obama. Leave this alone and worry about other things than Chefs poviding your cause! Look into Appleby’s and the other’s. Mc Donnalds, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and the like. No problems w/ any of them. Is it the responsibility to teach children left on Chefs? I don’t think so. As far as I’m concered, the kids will eat what I serve. Adjusted towards allergies.

Thumb_379935_2774793497883_1499457218_2922165_171145264_n Porcelina1023 47 posts

to black sheep; you are totally right  its not the goverment job or chef job to teach children how to eat properly  that is the responsibilities of the parents  the only thing i think that needs change is how healthy foods are expensive yet fast food are cheap  that should change  

Thumb_063 blacksheep 87 posts

@Porcelian1023: That is a very, very true point. So how do we fix tha? I really do not know. I can only give you a personal example from my youth. I do not have children personally, but there are ways w/ to make this happen in these difficult times. A big problem is the convenience of fast foods. Families are busy now working probably up to 3 jobs per household. However, there is time in the week to create weekly menus at home. Both my parent’s worked when I was growing up, but we always had a proper meal on the table. I’m not saying we did not have our fast foods. Those were like a treat from time to time. It took care of the marketing crave seen on TV and driving by every sign or fast food place.


Fortunately my parent’s could cook. Sometimes not very well but they could make it happen. They shopped and my Mom would spend a few hrs in the kitchen on Sunday prepping dinners at least parts of dinners for the week. My Mom was leftover Queen. I can remember my Mom w/ a tableside food grinder feeding my little sister at the table. She served very little prepared baby food.


Now, being an extremely active child myself and throughout my teenage yrs playing sports, I was always hungry. I took it upon myself to research what foods to eat throughout the day while at school. I packed nuts, seeds, carrot sticks, peanut butter sandwiches everyday which would hold in my school locker or backpack to graze on throughout the day. This kept me away form packaged snacks in vending machines. Granted, in those days we didn’t really have that much access to vending machines.


Here’s the problem these days. Log on to your FB acount and look at all the Status Posts of friends and family. What are the parent’s typically saying? I need to get the kids away from the video games so I can do whatever.  People are so busy doing other non-important things than tending to their families or themselves that they do not have time to spend in the kitchen preparing basic healthy foods. Society has changed so much w/ what you can mindlessly occupy your time that people loose touch w/ what is really important. Your family and diet. We all need personal down time to stay sane. Again, I’m not a parent so I don’t have the full understanding of needing to get away. However, it is a responsibility to your family and children to educate them correctly. The easiest thing is w/ food.


Look at all the crappy show’s on Food Network where these people open already prepared foods to make 10 minute meals and such. That is fine to an extent. Frozen, not canned veggies are great. Frozen veggies are prepared just like us Chef’s prepare veggies. The only difference is they are flash frozen. There is nothing wrong w/ the quality, it’s just how people then destroy these veggies before they hit the plate. Fresh veggies are very expensive in the States. They are also poorly handled like many other things.


Possible solution. I do believe that Chef’s have a responsibility in this matter. We are suppose to have the knowledge to teach and learn. It’s not our responsibility, but it’s simply the right thing to do. I speak w/ my guests on a regular basis on how to blanch veggies, make stocks, etc…. I explain to them that they can take one day a month to prepare multiple meals for the month. So maybe we should get involved to an extent in our communities and do the same. Hold a seminar once a month to show and explain to people how to cheaply feed their families. I do not know if that is the answer. I will tell you one thing. Throw the kids out of the house and make them go play outside. Growing up, my parents would tell me to go play in the street when they had enough of me. Typically, however, that is usually where I was anyway.

Thumb_379935_2774793497883_1499457218_2922165_171145264_n Porcelina1023 47 posts

Black sheep i agree with you 100%.  I personally portion my kids food everyday and teach them of proper eating habits and to enforce that teaching i have the girls cook with me and any and all questions i will answer to the best of my knowledge.  Since i don’t trust them in the street playing due to the fact that i live in a bad neighborhood I encourage the girls to pick a sport or if weather permits i take them to play outside with me.  fast food is a not an option for my kids and restaurants are rewards.  we bake treats once a month if they behaved.  My parents don’t see my view and indulge them but I know I’m doing the right thing.  As  single parent I am doing my best, even though some see it as harsh but i see it as giving them the tools to success with reality because lets be honest obesity is a problem health wise and emotionally. I hate to see any child go through the harshness of that reality of being obese. 

Thumb_socal%20morning%201-20-2011 campuschef 74 posts

Again with my very short comment. Blacksheep, spot on.

We need the government out of our restaurants and our kitchens. Here in California, the governments are removing toys from happy meals, and removing fry’s and replacing them with carrot sticks. Is this good, caloricly yes, free agency wise, no. The current “Nanny Government” needs to step back and allow the parents to parent. Parents, you need to parent so the government can get the hell out of your lives.

Each First Lady has had a pet project, and Ms. Obama is no different. The difference this time, is that she has hitched to a current trend of televised cooking and national awareness of the obesity crisis. Good for her, but we are still individuals who should be able to make our own choices. Does that mean that chef’s in New Orlenes won’t be making roux’s, southern chef’s wont be making fried chicken, French chef’s wont be making buerre blancs, no. What it means is that when the parents go out to eat, they should be aware of what they are allowing to pass their childrens lips, not the health departments.

Soap box over.

Icon_missing_thumb chef venis 3 posts

I see a lot of posts about educating kids VS parents VS teachers. That’s all good and fine. I’ve taught classes at the library and have a public access cooking show that is aimed at just these issues. HOWEVER, maybe that’s missing a point? What about our creating dishes that do less to contribute to this problem? I never cook with hydrogenated fat (that’s right, none of my icings have crisco in them) or high fructose corn syrup (pure evil). I also don’t buy any dressings, ketchup or other products that have these ingredients, and have begun pestering my suppliers for non-GMO products. I don’t expect these ingrained habits and items to leave our food chain rapidly, but I do believe that we can each make a small difference in our own communities, and if not us, then who? The government is slave to the lobbyists who created these products to begin with, the parents have been sold the fiction that McDonalds is cheaper and faster than cooking real food, and the kids go where they are led.

Thumb_063 blacksheep 87 posts

@ChefVenis: Though I do believe as Chef’s we have a hand in educating people in nutrition, how to shop, and healthy cooking techniques. I do not feel that it is our responsibility to carry the burden of educating kids. I do try to educate every guest at my resort. Here is the problem. You can educate all you want, but it is the responsibility of the Parent’s to make it happen. I don’t feel that Chef’s have created the obesity problem in how we cook. Sure we use fat in the cooking process, sometimes way to much. The question is, How often are these kids eating in our dining rooms? Not all that often in comparison to home.


The problem w/ obesity today lies in that quick meal. Why don’t we look at the McDonalds, Appleby’s, Olive Garden’s, or the all you can eat buffet at the Golden Coral. Why don’t we look into food practices in people,s homes. It drives me nuts that people cannot or rather WILL not take responsibility for educating their children in all aspects of life. It blows my mind that parent’s allow children to determine what foods they will or will not eat. I see it all the time where children will eat nothing but hot dogs, chicken tenders, french fries, or mac and cheese. That requires me to buy products and make meals I generally do not make. I give you a lot of credit for the changes you have personally made in how you prepare food and taking further steps w/ your suppliers. But, it’s not how you prepare your icings. It’s about how much the Parent of the child you’ve made the cake for allows their children to stuff into their pie holes.

Thumb_063 blacksheep 87 posts

Found this from an online article from Here’s how first lady helps in combatting childhood obesity. Michelle Obama consumed 1700 calories at lunch at the new DC Shake Shack. According to the story, the First Lady had a Shackburger, fries, a chocolate shake, and in a self-deluding ploy most of us know all too well, a Diet Coke. Some people were amused at the supposed hypocrisy of the obesity-fighting First Lady gorging on 1700 calories of fat and carbs.


I would consider myself one of the people that is amused and anoyed at the same time. Hypocrit! By the way, it wasn’t the Chef’s fault!

Thumb_36947_137394676271346_100000024430531_388679_950608_n XellosBlackF... 3 posts

Blaming us for obesity is like blaming coke for diabetes.. .

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NUTRITION FORUM Can chefs help to combat childhood obesity?
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