Meet the Food Fighters
Cooking changed their lives. We dare YOU to trade fast food for DIY meals and join the revolution.
Not so long ago, Detrice Brown was a chicken-tenders-with-fries girl. Though she knew all that fast food wasn’t good for her, what else was she going to eat when left to fend for herself?
But everything changed when the 16-year-old learned to cook—not microwave-meals-out-of-a-box cook, but from-scratch cook, with foods like arugula and cauliflower. As Detrice realized that a well-seasoned vegetable could rival the taste of fried chicken, she started paying attention to what she put in her body. And she started cooking up a storm, because it wasn’t just fun—it made her feel amazing. “I became healthier,” she says, “and more active, too.”
Detrice is part of a food revolution, and if you’re not part of it yet, you might be soon. “Teens are cooking more than ever,” says Rachel Meltzer Warren, a nutrition educator. And they aren’t doing it just because their parents are working insane hours, although that’s a factor. “They want to cook,” adds Warren. “They’re inspired by a boom in food-focused blogs and TV shows, and they’re picking up skills from what they see on screen.”
Schools are getting on board, too. In fact, Detrice says her passion was fueled by the cooking club at her high school, which is part of HealthCorps, a program that trains “coordinators” to help students develop healthy habits. We teamed up with them to bring you three reasons why cooking is awesome and three delish recipes, all designed to get you in the kitchen. Are you ready to join the food revolution?
FOOD FIGHTERS ARE…
Get this: Researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago found that teens consumed 300 calories more per meal eating out than eating at home. That’s a grim statistic. But try flipping it around. Teens can consume 300 calories less per meal just by eating home-cooked food. How’s that even possible?
“Restaurant meals are often loaded with sodium and calories, and may contain ingredients you’d never expect,” explains Warren. “When you cook, you’re in the driver’s seat and are unlikely to use mysterious add-ins or pile on the salt, butter, or sugar.”
...100 PERCENT NOT BORING
It’s Monday in the cafeteria. Everyone’s plate is loaded up with . . . the same sandwich. You, however, are digging into some mock tacos with tempeh (a low-fat, high-protein food made of soy), avocado, and homemade salsa.
Huh? Sound like something you saw on a TV cooking show? Sure. But it’s also easy to make and way cooler than what your friends are eating. (Yes, they’re staring. Go ahead and offer them a bite.)
See, cooking has a lot to do with attitude. Once you’re hooked on whipping up recipes or winging it with what you find in the fridge, you won’t want to make the same thing twice. And if you do, you’ll want to make it better—with a twist.
The kicker is that you end up eating a variety of foods as you test your skills, and those foods are often better for you, too. (Making those vegetables taste delicious, after all, is a challenge. And you’re not about to back down.)
Flash forward a few years. You’re living on your own—or maybe with roommates, who survive on week-old pizza and peanut butter. Luckily, you’ve spent years honing your kitchen skills. When dinnertime rolls around, you can be found chowing down on some hearty white bean soup (see above), or a delicious chicken stir-fry that tastes just as good as Chinese takeout (but cheaper, and minus all the fatty meat and grease). Sounds awesome, right?
Well, you don’t have to wait. You can take back the kitchen now. Detrice cooks all the time at home, and she’s influencing her entire family. Her dad is overweight, and she’s helping him eat better. “I want him to be around for a long time, so I know I have to help him change his diet,” she says.