DAY 1 Every Miss America contestant must have a platform and mine is entitled, “Eat Bright, Feel Right: Creating a Healthier Generation.” I am so excited to spend my summer working with Fit2cook4Kids, a summer camp that empowers 10- to 15-year-old children to stay active, eat healthy and communicate effectively! I could not have picked a better program to team up with during my year as Miss Rhode Island, while getting ready to compete for the title of Miss America in January 2013.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has nearly tripled in the last three decades and continues to be on the rise. As a health and fitness professional, I feel a responsibility for educating others on the importance of healthy eating and daily activity; habits that need to be instilled in our youth early on. Fit2cook4Kids is the PERFECT program to help keep children and their families healthy.
There are so many beneficial components of this program that I don't know where to begin! The first day started off with basic cooking lessons with Abigail Reedy (Abby), a recent graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Nutrition. Abby taught campers how to properly wash and sanitize their hands and cooking materials to meet state health code requirements. Then they learned the basics of knife safety which they demonstrated while preparing the food. First, Abby helped the campers to prepare a breakfast of whole wheat apple pancakes and amazingly delicious homemade granola to go on top of fruit and yogurt. The pancakes were vegan and I was amazed at how tasty our healthy options were!
After breakfast, campers started to prepare lunch, developing their teamwork skills while preparing the ingredients. The kitchen came alive with campers slicing onions, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic. They didn't even tear up when chopping the onions … pretty impressive! Lunch consisted of veggie bean burgers with a healthy, mouthwatering lime mayonnaise. Hand-cut baked sweet potato wedges were prepared as the side dish.
Along with healthy cooking comes TeaTime, a game that makes you think before you speak! During TeaTime, someone asks a question which in turn needs to be answered by each person using proper grammar. Contractions, slang and filler words such as like and because are not allowed! Every word has to be annunciated. If the judges catch any of the above, that person is out until ultimately there is one person standing. The TeaTime game generated lots of laughs while helping to fix bad habits. I didn't realize how hard it was until it was my turn to speak!
After lunch the kitchen was cleaned and it was time for fitness. Jessica, the yoga instructor, taught campers stretching, breathing and balancing exercises. They even got to take turns selecting an exercise for the group to perform! After stretching, Jessica led the class through some relaxation exercises where the kids visualized themselves in their "happy place." My favorite part of the yoga session was the lesson about gratitude. Each person had to share one thing they were grateful for today, whether it be big or small. It was amazing to hear the variety of answers among the group. Many were thankful for the opportunity to learn to cook healthy, delicious meals. Jessica made a valuable point at the end of her class, "Remember to be grateful for at least one thing every day. Therefore when we are feeling down, we will always have something to lift us up."
I was grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing students and teachers on a common goal, to create a healthier generation through healthy eating and physical activity!
DAY 2 The second day at Fit2cook4Kids camp began with eggs in a nest. It was my first time trying this recipe and it was delicious! The eggs came from local Rhode Island farm. It is great to teach the campers to buy fresh, local ingredients when possible! They also made peanut butter and jelly muffins, which had a gooey strawberry jelly center. Yum!
As soon as breakfast was over, it was time to start cooking lunch! Recipes of the day were vegetable sushi, spring rolls and chicken low mein. I was very excited for today’s lunch since sushi is my favorite food! There were many laughs while making lunch. The group had fun making the spring rolls. The rice paper was tricky to roll which led to many funky-shaped rolls. They were delicious nonetheless. The campers practiced their knife skills cutting ingredients into small, fine pieces to fit inside the sushi rolls. After some trial and error, the group was able to successfully roll sushi in bamboo mats. The sushi was so tasty, and it felt like we had taken a trip to a Japanese restaurant!
During fitness class, I taught some of my dance moves to the group, specifically cardio dance, to get their hearts pumping! It is always fun to dance along to upbeat music. Michael Jackson, of course, made the play list! Class ended with a cool down and stretching segment to help lower heart rates back to a relaxed state.
Here are some song selections that I love to use to cool down and relax:
Beautiful Flower by India Arie
Man in the Mirror (acoustic version) by James Morrison
Brighter than the Sun by Colbie Caillat
Hey, Soul Sister By Train
Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann
In a blink, the camp week ended and I’ll miss all my new friends. I’m looking forward to the next camp and making more new friends. Maybe I’ll see you there. Meanwhile, you can see Abigail's DELICIOUS recipes on the Fit2cook4Kids website at FoodAndTruth.org. And you can follow me on the The Rhode to Miss America too.