Midtown: Community

Chef aims to start healthy habits

Lisa Hinton embraced the poetic wisdom of author Maya Angelou to alter her affair with food – and to launch a business that starts kids on a nutritional good habits, too.

“When you know better,” says Hinton, quoting Angelou, “you do better.”

This summer, Hinton started Kid Kitchen to offer hands-on, nutritional-cooking classes for youngsters. Teens and adults are welcome, too. The classes last about 1-1/2 hours and include lessons in kitchen and food safety, nutrition and cooking with emphasis on math, science and social skills. It’s all topped off with a shared meal prepared by the chefs-in-training, with a bit of table etiquette, to boot.

“Kid Kitchen is so personal for me,” Hinton said. “I don’t know that my mom and my dad knew everything as far as nutrition and wellness and wholeness.”

Many of us are just learning as we undo habits of family and culture that have left us, according to national health statistics, with a supersized nation, rearing children who are increasingly pre-diabetic because they don’t eat healthily or exercise enough.

Hinton, 39, is a Raleigh native and the oldest of three children. Her younger brothers were active growing up; playing sports kept them out of the fat zone. Hinton’s activity, on the other hand, was limited to walking or riding her bike everywhere.

“I could have been athletic, but I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence,” she said. “That affected my relationship with food.”

It strengthened her relationship with her Daddy, who loved to cook, growing up and even now, after his death.

“I grew to appreciate what you could do with food by watching Daddy,” said Hinton, adding that she would study cookbooks and test recipes after school. “Rather than being active and engaged with sports, I was hanging out around the house and cooking and cleaning.

“I was being a ‘little mama,’ ” she said. “All of that contributed to my poor relationship with food.”

Now, Hinton spends her time studying and practicing new ways to cook and eat. Most recently, she has embarked on a vegan lifestyle, documenting her journey via Facebook as an extension of her passion for teaching us all.

“Kid Kitchen grew out of my desire to continue to work with children and pass along information I have gained along the way,” said Hinton, a career corporate IT specialist whose second career included teaching at Enloe High School, her alma mater.

“If I had learned and had certain things about nutrition been reinforced in my household, I know I would be a different adult,” she said. “Kid Kitchen is about me knowing more and doing better.

“Now, I want to teach better.”

In Kid Kitchen, Hinton stresses safety and cleanliness first.

Next up is talk about the day’s menu. Hinton helps the students explore the foods they’ll be cooking and eating by teaching them what food does for us and inviting them to touch and taste each one.

“The goal is to expand their minds and get them engaged in the whole process of nutrition, food preparation and cooking,” Hinton said. “Even if it’s a food they wouldn’t normally eat at home, because they have touched that food or washed it or stirred it into a bowl, because they had a hand in it, they are going to taste it. They’ll try it.”

Carla Olds’ daughters got to knead pizza dough, make tomato sauce and taste fresh oregano and raw garlic in Kid Kitchen during a recent trip to their grandparents’ house in Raleigh.

The Kid Kitchen Itza Pizza Bar taught Kelva, 9, and Carlyse, 6, about the benefits of lycopene in tomatoes, and the protein and vitamins in the raw mozzarella cheese they grated and sprinkled on their pizza. They also learned about the vegetables they washed and chopped for their tossed salad, and about the bananas they used to make a banana parfait dessert.

“Overall, I don’t think the average parent has time, or takes the time, to go through everything with their children about nutrition because of the hustle and bustle of life,” said Olds, a Raleigh native who now lives in Richmond, Va. “She took the time with them.

“What that has done for both of them is it has prompted them to become interested in what they eat, where it comes from and how it’s cooked.”

Certainly, then, when we know better, we do better.

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