Running With Blenders

QUESTION: How can we guide kids toward healthy snacks instead of sugary, salt-laden treats filled with empty calories? 
ANSWER: Give them a blender.

smoothie

Photo credit: Flicker user AnnCN

Earlier this month Chancellor Livingston parent Sarah Hutchings and I hosted Cool Kids Cook: Snack Attack, an after-school elective that showed students how to make healthy snacks like smoothies, hummus, fruit kabobs, yogurt parfaits and tzatziki.

As much as we were there to teach, we were there to learn, too.

We began with a discussion about what makes a snack healthy (low in sugar and bad fats, and high in nutrients like fiber and vitamins), reading food labels, and experimenting with flavors. After school the kids are a bundle of frenetic energy, freed from the confines of schedules and rules. They weren’t in the mood to talk. They wanted to make and do.

We split the group of 8 into teams of two, and gave each team a smoothie recipe. We took a group blender safety pledge (thou shalt not stick objects in the blender while it is blending, ESPECIALLY fingers), and off they went to retrieve their ingredients and start blending.

They made their first smoothie in record time. They poured their concoctions into 3-ounce cups and everyone had a taste. Wow, they were really good!

But then, oops, we were done, and had 20 minutes left in the class.

“Can we make more, and make up our own smoothies?”

No sooner did we reply, “Sure,” then they were racing around our makeshift kitchen fetching ingredients for their own unique creations.

Everything after that was a blur. These kids were on fire. When I heard one student shout, “Who’s got the coconut milk?” while another asked “I need the apple!,” we knew we were on to something.

They made so many smoothies that we served them to the children in the after-school program – nearly 30 additional kids! The Cool Kids Cook students were so proud of what they made.

Their enthusiasm inspired the agenda for Day 2 – the Cool Kids Cook Snack Bar. We split into teams again and made an array of new healthy snacks and presented them to after-school program again. Some flavors were a bit of a challenge – tzatziki was deemed “YUCK” until paired with some veggies. The yogurt parfaits were a definite hit.

snack bar spread

Cool Kids Cook Snack Bar: (front to back) fruit kabobs, yogurt parfaits, hummus in cucumber cups, veggies and tzatziki, ants on a log, 2 kinds of smoothies.

Here’s what the kids thought of the class

We asked the students to share their thoughts about the experience. Here’s what they wrote.

What did you learn in this class? 

I learned to make delicious foods quickly.

How to make better tasting, healthy snacks.

I learned about how different flavors work together and create different tastes.

I learned how to make smoothies. I also learned to try new things.

Which parts did you like best? 

I think making the smoothies was the best.

My favorite thing about the class was that you got to work very independently.

The smoothies.

I liked that we could experiment with different recipes, and we got to do the cooking without adults monitoring us on every move.

How can we make the class better? 

We can make the class longer.

I think you should let the class pick some of the foods we make. Otherwise, it was awesome. I hope you do it again.

We always get to pick our partners and we get to pick what we make.

I think class would be better if there were several weeks of it instead of just two.

Let’s do this again, shall we?

We see Cool Kids Cook as the kernel of a larger initiative to get kids cooking and eating real, unprocessed wholesome foods to help them thrive. Whether this sprouts is up to you.

If you would like to help us expand this program, contact us here. Fall after-school electives are arranged during the summer, so we’ll be firming up offerings in July.

What are your secrets and tricks to getting kids to try healthy foods? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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