Hey Kids, What’s Cooking?

English: USDA MyPlate nutritional guide icon

 USDA MyPlate nutritional guide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about how to make school lunches better for kids and how to help America’s youth learn how to eat healthier.  First the focus was on how to make healthier food available to children both at school and at home.  The result was significant changes to school lunch program requirements which made healthier options available to more children.  Unfortunately, schools are watching their efforts get tossed in the trash next to the healthier school lunches.  This shifted the focus to finding ways to get kids to get healthier food when it is made available to them.  Through educational efforts like Kids Eat Right and the USDA’s Team Nutrition, doctors, dietitians, educators, and parents are working to help children learn to make healthier choices.

Since one of the best ways to learn to do something is by doing it, this year, the First Lady, Michelle Obama in partnership with Epicurious, the USDA, and the Department of Education are again sponsoring the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge Competition.

Who better than kids themselves know what kids want to eat?  The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge asks kids between the ages of 8 and 12 to come up with a lunch recipe that fulfills three main requirements.

First, it must be healthy.  This means that it has to adhere to the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines.  Each recipe must include components from each of the food groups:

    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Whole Grains
    • Lean Proteins
    • Low-fat Dairy

Although each recipe must include foods from all five groups, they are not required to be incorporated into a single dish.   Additionally, as outlined in the MyPlate program, fruits and vegetables must take up about half the plate for the recipe to qualify.

Second, recipes must be affordable.   One of the challenges families across the country face in their efforts to adopt healthier eating habits is limited financial resources.  Recipes that help demonstrate how to eat healthier without breaking the bank can serve as the inspiration of families of all sizes and age groups to make real changes in the foods they choose.

Third, they must be tasty.  The bottom-line is that no matter how healthy it is, it doesn’t matter if kids won’t eat it.  This is the key to the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge.  Empowering kids to create healthy lunch recipes filled with foods they like to eat ensures that access to healthy options leads to eating healthier options.

A winning recipe will be chosen from each U.S. state and territory and the recipe’s creator will be awarded a trip to Washington D.C. for the Kids State Dinner which will be hosted by Mrs. Obama.   For more information or to enter the challenge, visit the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kid’s State Dinner site.


Recipes can be submitted online or via mail to Deadline to The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge c/o Epicurious.com,  1166 Avenue of the Americas, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10036. The deadline to enter is May 12.

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