Classes teach children about healthy cooking

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah children discovered healthy food this week after Molina Healthcare provided them with free cooking classes at Neighborhood House during National Nutrition Month.

Molina Healthcare is giving weekly cooking classes to Salt Lake children as part of the fight against the growing obesity epidemic. The five-week program teaches twenty students between the ages of 7 and 12 how to prepare healthy, affordable meals.

Executive Chef Jose Ramos said the current trend toward fast food can be unhealthy.

“Nowadays you have so many things, like going to McDonald’s and get a hamburger for $3, you have a lot problems with high cholesterol and obesity in kids,” he said.

The lessons are taught at Neighborhood House, which is a non-profit organization that began more than a century ago and serves children and seniors.

In this lesson the children learned to make turkey lasagna with whole-wheat pasta. Ramos said if kids enjoy the meal, he knows he is doing his job well.

“Kids are going to be your highest critics,” he said. “If a kid doesn’t like it— they're the pickiest one—if they do like it, you’re doing good.”

Classes like this help put kids on a path to healthy living. Ramos said it’s an important lesson to learn early in life.

“It's good to teach them at this age to start eating healthy,” he said. “First of all, they have better lives, and it helps their parent understand that yeah, they can spend $3 at McDonald’s, but they can spend $3 and have quality time with their kids while they’re cooking and keep it healthy for them,” he said.

On the last day of the program the children will have a graduation ceremony, where they will be declared junior chefs. Each child gets a chef hat, an apron and healthy recipes to use at home.