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TTT- Tuesday’s Tasty Tip with Chef David Hall

Helping Your Child Become A Committee Of One – Eating Healthy in a Junk-food World

One of the challenges children with celiac, food allergies or intolerances is that they must function confidently in a “Junk Food” environment. This confidence and independence is critical to their physical and emotional survival in an often-cruel peer environment, when teased or bullied. This means our children must develop a very independent self-sufficient mindset. I call this mind set a “Committee of One.” Kids look to their families to help them develop this mindset, especially from mom and dad. This mindset will extend to all parts of their lives, allowing them to withstand the hurting comments that sometimes come from peers, and have a strong and healthy perspective in the moment enabling them to deal with tough situations in a responsible manner.

In one of my Kids Kulinary Boot Kamps, I had a student who cooked some great dishes. At 12 years old, she prepared an entire meal for her family – not peanut butter sandwiches, but a spicy meatloaf with homemade BBQ sauce, sides and dessert. She obviously had all it takes to prepare meals. At the end of one of the classes, she proudly served samples of her excellent work to her mom, dad and sister. While serving the last plate she tripped and dropped a plate, and red Italian sauce went everywhere including the ceiling, and pieces of the plate shot in every direction. Sadly, she got embarrassed and the tears started to flow. She refused to eat.

This moment should have been a time of laughter because no one was hurt or went without food, and it was quite a humorous spectacle. But it wasn’t for her. I do not proclaim to know much about psychology, but I can truly relate to her emotions and experience, because (as my wife would tell you) I strive for perfection on the plate. When something is less than perfect, I won’t serve it, and I sometimes get frustrated when my effort didn’t produce the results I intended. This is in part a result of the way I was raised and trained. However, this perfectionist mindset can be detrimental in some situations, because it can steal the joy of the moment.

Instead of considering the reality of the situation at the moment, we look for approval and validation from others (especially chefs when it comes to their food). When the result is criticism rather than praise, it is hard to process and accept, especially for kids. Ask your Junior High or High School student how their peers often strike at each other when vulnerable; it may surprise you. Better yet, ask a teacher what he/she observed. It is our job as parents to teach our children to put things into perspective and consider the big picture when the moment is not pleasant.

We have already determined getting your kids in the kitchen has so many positive benefits, however you must create an environment where the kids can blossom, not one of worrying about something going wrong or not turning out right. One of the things I do in the kids’ boot camp is tossing a raw egg to a student such that it is nearly impossible to catch. When the egg hits the floor, I am not looking at the egg. I am looking at the kids’ responses. Sometimes the kids laugh, while others are horrified and petrified. Once the shocked kids see me laugh, the change on their face is instantaneous; relief followed by joining in the laughter.

Teach your children that cooking, like so many other activities in life, is to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously. The joy of family and friends should always outshine any peer criticism they receive because they bring a brown bag lunch to school instead of ordering from the pizza bar. Teaching them to become a committee of one will allow them boast of their own braised chicken with a white wine sauce that they made instead of their friends eating pizza they don’t even know how to make.

Self-sufficiency and ability help develop confidence and independence. Get them cooking and challenge them to strive for excellence. When the bumps in the road cause their dessert to collapse, just grab a fork, dig in and laugh (WITH them).

Chef David Hall

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