With only 25% of students nationally taking family and consumer sciences classes (formerly called home economics) one has to wonder where food preparation skills will be learned. The reality is that most kids aren’t learning these skills at home or at school. Consider the possibility that many of today’s parents weren’t taught kitchen skills themselves. It’s no surprise that this knowledge isn’t being passed to children at home.
This lack of basic cooking skills might not be such a big deal, except that it is helping to fuel the biggest health crisis our nation has faced: obesity. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, but adults are not the only ones carrying around extra pounds. One in three adolescents weighs in at a level that is considered unhealthy.
Experts say that frequently eating out, eating take-out, and eating prepackaged snacks promote weight gain. However, when teens and young adults prepare their own food they make healthier choices.
Since obesity adversely affects not only health, but also self-esteem, academic achievement, and even future earning potential of children, we should all be concerned about this generation. It could be that learning to cook may have a tremendous impact on the health of our nation’s kids.
Experts suggest that kids should be taught about food as it is within the current environment—sort of a modern-day version of the home economics classes we remember decades back. Instead of learning to bake a cake, they should learn how to choose and use convenience foods, such as prewashed salad greens, and how to recognize marketing techniques for unhealthy foods so that they may be avoided.
In short, they need to know how to shop at the grocery store and how to prepare a healthy meal for themselves. They need skills to become confident in selecting, handling and preparing food.
As we watch a generation of children grow up, developing weight-related health issues like diabetes and hypertension years earlier than generations before them, we should ask what we can do to address this important issue.
One easy solution is to prepare and eat meals at home. Heavy reliance on take-out, fast-food, and restaurant meals drains the pocketbook and can add extra pounds. Eating at home isn’t just about saving money anymore. Eating home-cooked meals can literally improve the health of your family, provided healthy food choices are made.
When we depend on restaurants to feed our families we communicate that cooking takes too much effort. Preparing meals at home as a family shows that cooking isn’t hard, does not have to be time consuming, and can actually be fun. More importantly, it teaches kids the skills they need to be healthy and self-sufficient. Learning to cook might be a part of the solution to fix our nation’s obesity epidemic. This solution starts at home.