Thursday, May 31, 2012

What exactly is a chicken nugget? The necessity of educating kids about healthy alternatives to fast food

Today I had the privilege of participating in a healthy food cook-off sponsored by the Health Department, Stratford University and Urbanite Magazine. I was also joined by Mark Furst, President of United Way of Central Maryland, who is and a strong supporter of healthier food access, as well as food judges from our military.

Students from Dunbar High School had the opportunity to learn how chicken nuggets sold in fast food restaurants are made. Then Chef Todd Mohr led them in a hands-on experience to make healthier alternatives with chicken breasts. It’s a big misconception that eating healthy costs more and it takes more time to prepare healthy dishes. These young teens got to see that healthier alternatives are not difficult to make. They also learned why it’s important to know about the ingredients used in fast food. Learning about healthy and tasty alternatives to greasy, fried foods is an important step to taking control of our individual health.

As I told the students, the obesity epidemic is ravaging this city. Here in Baltimore City, 37% of public high school students are overweight or at risk of becoming obese. Overweight children are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other chronic health problems, as well as heart attacks, stroke, cancer and other acute diseases throughout life.

Combating childhood obesity, therefore, must continue to be a top priority for our local communities. We cannot fight this from City Hall, or the State House, or at a single hospital. It is going to take a collaborative public-private effort – like we experienced today –to truly make a difference for our children.

There are way too many people dying too young because of obesity related health conditions such as heart disease, which kills more people every year in Baltimore than the four top causes of cancer death combined.

I commend the Urbanite, Chef Mohr and Assistant Principal Mattie Burton of Dunbar High School for creating an opportunity that will teach these students culinary skills that will serve them well now and in the future.

What strategies do you use to teach your children about healthy eating?