Teaching children the art of good eating –

Chef Cindy Gershen points out the benefits of a strawberry spinach salad to Liora during a class at East Bay Health in Lafayette. (Photo by Naomi Breckon)

(Dec. 28, 2023) — I like to teach them when they’re young. That’s why first-graders are coming to my culinary class on Wednesdays to learn about nutrition at East Bay Health, a new medical practice in Lafayette.

The earlier we can mold a child’s palate to appreciate fresh, unprocessed food, the better we can turn the person away from chronic issues like diabetes or kidney disease later in life. In general, whatever you grow up eating is what you’re going to eat.

We only wish the school systems would make changes in menus to minimize sugar and packaged foods. There’s tremendous peer pressure in school cafeterias, and it’s a struggle for parents to maintain control of what their children eat.

Basics of nutrition

In my cooking classes, kids split up into small groups and learn basics of nutrition while getting hands-on work, moving station to station in preparing dishes. A recent class had children contributing to the creation of a meal of lemon chicken and sweet potatoes, complemented by strawberry spinach salad. The kids get in the spirit, putting on aprons and white chef hats.

At the end of class, the children try small portions of everything they helped prepare. The class shows that most kids are willing to try unfamiliar foods. It’s a fallacy that there’s kid food and adult food. We can mold good habits for children this young.

The key to managing chronic comorbidities, such as diabetes or kidney disease, often lies in the food you eat. The innovative East Bay Health clinic is starting a culinary medicine program in January. In regular open kitchen sessions, people with diabetes or kidney disease will bring in their own food and work with me to make cooking easier and healthier. For details, visit eastbayhealthcare.org.

Here’s a healthy recipe to try.

Turkey Keema Curry

1 lb. ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. avocado, coconut or olive oil
2 c. chopped Roma or cherry tomatoes
Spice blend mix:
2 T garam masala powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
1 T salt
6 green cardamom seeds (optional)
1 tsp. red chili powder (optional)

Saute ground turkey and onion in oil.

Add tomatoes, spice blend and 1 c. water and heat.

Send your questions and comments to [email protected].

Cindy Gershen

Cindy Gershen

Cindy Gershen is an educator, nutritionist, chef, and co-author of “Fat Chance Cookbook.”