It seems like with every scan of the TV viewing menu nowadays you are bound to come across a show with kids cooking in competition with other kids, maybe with even a "Master Chef" title on the line, or as a celebrity chef sidekick. From Julia Child to the Galloping Gourmet and the Food Channel and Cooking Channel, our fascination with the spectacle of cooking has been a mainstay of TV entertainment. And in regard this current trend, let's hope it's not just a passing fancy. We need kids in the kitchen.
Nutritionists have known for some time now that in order to get people to change what they eat, we need to provide them with more access to affordable, healthy food as well as information on how to cook and prepare it. Getting kids into the kitchen preparing the food they and their families will eat results in them viewing food in an entirely new way. If given the right ingredients, that act alone can raise the standards of the quality of the food both they and their family eat.
If you need any more convincing of the power of young people as a catalyst for change, just look at the impact they are currently having on the soft drink industry.
As recently as the late 1990s, people in this country drank more soft drinks than water; in 1998, 54 gallons a year according to industry tracker Beverage Digest. The intake of sugar-laden soft drinks — as we've learned in recent years — has been linked to weight gain, obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues. Concerns about these negative impacts have been the subject of numerous public awareness campaigns spanning decades. That's why it is so encouraging to hear that a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that young people have been paying attention and taking action. Consumption among young Americans of sugar-laden soft drinks has declined by nearly a third in just the past two years.
So what are young Americans drinking these days in lieu of soda? You might be surprised to learn that teens aren't just swapping soda for other sugary substitutes. Their drink of choice is water. A recent industry report from the Beverage Marketing Corp. revealed that bottled water consumption has grown 120 percent from 2000 to 2015 with young Americans playing a big part in the increase.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, in 2015, 26 percent of teens participating in the survey reported not consuming any sugary soda in the previous seven days. This response was up from 22 percent in 2013 and approximately 19 percent in 2007.
It's hard to argue with this healthy choice. Besides aiding the body with digestion, blood circulation and the elimination of toxins, water has many other healthful benefits. Experts believe that drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of water per day can boost heart health and promote weight loss while keeping the skin hydrated.
Another interesting trend that seems to be luring young people into the kitchen is a new form of home meal delivery. In the span of just a few short years, more than 100 companies have entered what is known as the "meal kit" food delivery business.
Millions of these packaged meals now arrive on urban and rural doorsteps every month. Inside they hold everything you need to cook dinner, packaged in exact proportions, ready to be prepared according to illustrated recipe cards, all accomplished in less than an hour. Technomic Inc., a food industry analyst, predicts that at the current rate of adoption, the United States meal kit market could grow by as much as $5 billion over the next decade.
Meal kits have arrived at a time when an interest in fresh, healthy, even exotic foods is hitting a peak in this country. People are eager to learn more about cooking with ingredients such as chickpea flour or organic escarole, but less interested in putting in the shopping miles needed to seek out these new ingredients. Many meal kits contain very traditional balanced dishes that contain fresh ingredients.
"There has been a focus recently on the return of a more traditional diet," noted Claudia Thompson-Felty of Arizona State University's School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. "A traditional diet incorporates whole foods, cooked simply and incorporates all food groups."
Michael Pollan, author of "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" sees meal kits as a positive development in cooking culture. "They are teaching very valuable lessons to people," he recently explained to the New York Times.
According to an estimate by the Department of Agriculture, as much as 31 percent of America's post-harvest food supply is thrown away. Roughly 50 percent of food waste occurs after consumers bring their groceries home. There is also an argument being advanced that meal kits cut down on food waste, as well as gasoline consumption and the boxes and bags in which food enters and leaves the grocery store.
As for another view, Liz Goodwin, the former head of the British government's Waste and Resources Action Program, believes an answer to discouraging food waste and encouraging healthy home cooked meals may be found in the revival of a somewhat abandoned school curriculum — home economics classes. Teaching an updated set of cooking skills to school kids — to both boys and girls — applicable to contemporary life, can prepare them for the adult world. It is another trend we hope will continue to take hold.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.