Kids learn how healthy food can awaken taste buds

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 05:37 PM

When chef Marcos Santos asked a group of children Friday if they liked vegetables, he got a resounding: “No!”

But then he combined sweet red peppers, mushrooms and garlic with chicken strips that he was pan cooking in olive oil. He served it to them with a side of whole wheat pasta.

The kids cleaned their plates and called for seconds.

That’s the way it usually goes when Santos prepares healthy food and brings it to life with his special touch. People who thought only fast food could taste good are stunned by how wrong they were.

Santos, who works at Backyard Bistro in Raleigh, was donating his time and considerable culinary talent to 150 youths Friday at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club on Alston Avenue.

It was part of a cooking demonstration sponsored by the American Heart Association and RTP-based Drug Safety Alliance. The groups have joined to fight childhood obesity.

“Obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States,” Indian Bauer with the Heart Association said. “The best way for us to combat it is to start at the grassroots and really educate children in healthy eating, and what they’re putting in their bodies.”

Bauer said a top goal is to show youngsters that healthy food can taste good.

“Then they take that message home to their brothers, sisters, moms and dads,” she said.

Despite what many people believe, healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, Bauer said, noting that farmers markets sell locally grown fruits and vegetables at prices that are often lower than at grocery stores.

But for most kids at the demonstration, where the food came from made little difference. They just loved it.

“I feel great about the food,” 5-year-old Jahlio Harding said.

Six-year-old Jayla Bey said the chicken and pasta were “different than the other stuff I eat. It’s healthy for my body.”

Jamilia Alisa, 6, said she liked everything on her plate.

“It all tastes good!” she said. “There’s no bad things in it.”