Nutrition Buddies teaches kids how to cook healthy meals with a friend

ANN ARBOR, MI — Children can learn how to cook and practice healthy eating habits this summer with Trinity Health’s Nutrition Buddies program.

From July to August, Trinity Health will run the program for kids ages 11 to 13. Over the course of four weekly classes, participants will learn how to cook healthy dishes alongside medical resident physician mentors. The program will conclude with four days of activities at Trinity’s farm.

This is the first time in several years that Trinity has been able to host the program fully in-person. Lifestyle and Culinary Medicine Program Coordinator Kelly Wilson said being in-person helps campers connect with the program better. Each participant is paired up with a mentor to make sure that they are given one-on-one time to build their skills.

Some of the recipes kids will learn include a lentil bolognese, rainbow bean bowls and a vegetable stir fry. Wilson said each meal was chosen based on three factors: taste, comfort and fun.

“No one – not even kids – will want to eat something if it doesn’t taste good,” she said.

The recipes also help children to find new ways to incorporate healthy eating habits into familiar foods. As an example, Wilson mentioned that campers in the past have made a chickpea cookie dough, which she says is just as tasty as a traditional cookie dough. She also said it was important to chose recipes that have some fun elements, like the colorful vegetables in the rainbow bean bowls.

Each dish is also geared towards teaching different kitchen skills. While making the lentil bolognese, campers will learn how to use an immersion blender. The class also teaches other useful skills, like how to properly chop vegetables.

Each week, campers take home a box of produce grown on Trinity Health’s community farm, where the final section of the camp will take place. From Aug. 14 to 18, campers will learn about different parts of growing food, from lessons on soil health to actually planting herbs themselves. Each day on the farm will run from 11 am to 4 pm

Wilson shared that in previous years of the program, both mentors and participants saw positive impacts to their mental health. Overall, campers reported decreases in depression and anxiety, and mentors had lower distress scores than their coworkers. Both groups get to benefit from the one-on-one experience, she said.

“(The residents) get to work with the community, and they’re also learning about cooking and nutrition,” Wilson said.

The program is currently full, but Wilson encouraged people who were interested to send an email to [email protected] to be notified if any spots become available. For more information about Nutrition Buddies or other Trinity Health farm programs, visit their website.

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