Hilton Head chef shares secrets to enticing kids to eat healthy

abredeson@islandpacket.comOctober 14, 2013 

From left, Hilton Head Christian Academy chef Brooks Rinehart asks sixth grader Jimmy Sewell, and seventh graders John Minter and Hunter Hawk who wants to grate the Parmesan cheese during an after school class on healthy cooking at the school on Sept. 26.

JAY KARR — Jay Karr Buy Photo

  • Chef Brooks Rinehart's tips to cooking healthy meals for kids:

  • Stick to basic foods children recognize.

  • Ask what they prefer. Alternate cooking their favorites.

  • Explain what is healthy and what is not.

  • Let them know it's OK to eat unhealthy things every now and then as long as they mostly eat healthy foods.

  • When possible, cook with olive oil and fresh garlic and herbs.

  • Let them help in the kitchen. Cooking is a skill they can carry with them into adulthood.

Most parents want their children to be healthy, but not all know how to make that happen.

For Brooks Rinehart, a father of four and a chef, the key is getting kids involved in the kitchen.

Rinehart, who is the chef and owner of Healthy Culinary Concepts of the Lowcountry and chef at Hilton Head Christian Academy, genuinely cares about what children eat.

His philosophy is to keep it simple. Stick to basic foods that children recognize. If they like carrots, cook carrots. If they like chicken, cook chicken.

"Their taste buds are not developed yet," he said. "We may like it all mixed together, but the kids may not."

Rinehart said parents should start out by asking their children what they prefer. Do they like chicken, pork, fish or beef? Do they like broccoli or green beans? Then, alternate their favorites, he said -- put broccoli on the table one night and green beans the next.

It's good to explain to your children what is healthy and what is not, he said.

"They only know what we put in front of them," Rinehart said. "If you put junk in front of the kids, that's what they'll eat."

But, he said, it's OK to let kids know they can eat unhealthy foods every once in awhile.

"If you do good and eat this turkey on wheat with provolone and your apple, then maybe later on this week you can have a Lunchable," he said.

Rinehart doesn't just cook with his children at home; he began teaching cooking classes at Hilton Head Christian Academy last school year. In the class, students learn to cook a healthy meal and then enjoy the results, which sometimes means trying something new.

Sixth-grader Jimmy Sewell had never tried salmon before taking Rinehart's cooking class.

He loved it, and now he wants to eat it at home with his family.

"It's good to eat healthy," Sewell said. "I liked the class, and I would like to do it again."

Rinehart would love to see more kids get excited about eating healthy like Sewell.

"These are skills," he said. "It's just like learning math. These are skills that they can take to college with them and learn how to eat healthy instead of opening a box of macaroni."

Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.

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