Kids learn how to cook healthy foods

HARLINGEN — The wrap sizzled on the skillet, blending the flavors to create a tasty and refreshing treat.

“I liked the cinnamon and the sugar and the yogurt and the tortilla,” said Anna Huerta, 10.

She was one of 19 children at Sunset Terrace who’d just participated in a cooking class to learn healthier eating habits. The session was presented by Gloria E. Carter, family and consumer sciences extension agent for Prairie View A&M University.

Carter had just demonstrated the preparation of an “Apple Cinnamon Wrap and Roll” with the assistance of her daughter Grace, 9, and two volunteers from the group of children. They were cooling down inside the Family Learning Center with orange and lime ice pops after being outside.

Sunset Terrace is one of several communities under the administration of the Harlingen Housing Authority. During the summer months when the kids are out of school, the housing authority organizes a broad range of activities for them. Those activities include reading and writing as well as soccer, hula hoop and movies.

Yesterday’s activity wasn’t just about cooking. It was about cooking with healthy ingredients and understanding the labels on foods at grocery stores.

Grabiel Gonzalez, 10, volunteered to read the label of a pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

“There are 21 grams of sugar in just one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” he said.

Carter gasped and asked, “How many Reese’s come in the package?”

And the children one by one answered, “Two.”

That was a lot of sugar. They seemed to get the message, especially as she held up pictures of Oreos, Fudge Brownies, and other sweets and read their labels.

She drew their attention to the importance of fats and sugars in a person’s daily diet, and the difference between vegetables and fruits.

“Is all sugar bad?” she said.

“No,” answered the restless children, eyeing the cooking equipment being spread across a table.

With preparations now ready to prepare the wraps, which she also referred to as quesadillas, she called Anna and also Grabiel to the front to assist her along with Grace.

She held up two apples for all to see, talking in detailed but easy to understand terms the difference between the sugars of a fruit and those in Oreos. She also demonstrated the correct way to cut fruits and vegetables without cutting themselves.

Grabiel and Anna helped her mix the cinnamon and sugar and then spread it across wheat flour tortillas.

“What does this remind you of during the holidays?” she asked the kids with a smile. “Bunuelos!”

With the tortillas folded over the mixture, she placed them on the skillet. The children leaned forward as the smells reached out to them. Reactions were mixed. Not exactly the kind of quesadilla they’d eaten before, but a new and healthy experience nevertheless.

“It had kind of a sweet flavor,” said Grabiel. “It was fun.”

Sugar Intake

Maximum daily allowance of sugar for children:

Ages 4 – 10:  20 grams

Ages 11 and over: no more than 25 grams.