Teaching Healthy Eating in KVC Hospitals’ Kitchen Lab
Megan Brinker, a Dietitian with KVC Hospitals, has been part of our passionate and innovative team since 2013. One of Megan’s roles at KVC Hospitals is teaching healthy eating in the Kitchen Lab at our children’s psychiatric treatment centers in Kansas City, KS (KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital) and Kansas City, MO (Niles). The youth we serve learn valuable lessons and gain resources that will aid them in nutritional decision making throughout their life.
The key lessons Megan focuses on during cooking sessions are:
- Understanding the MyPlate categories for healthy eating.
- Food preparation safety and proper use of kitchen equipment.
- Financial responsibility with grocery shopping and eating out.
- Trying new foods and learning about different cultures.
- Cooking with fresh produce that they’ve grown in the Niles and Prairie Ridge gardens with our horticulturist, Courtney Green (like the strawberries in the image above).
What is Kitchen Lab?
During Kitchen Lab, Megan teaches a small group of three to six youth how to cook a new dish. She focuses on teaching them meals that they can easily make for themselves once they’re home, and that they get excited about. She often asks the kids and teens what types of dishes they’re interested in making to ensure they’re making food that they enjoy and will look forward to learning about. Past Kitchen Lab dishes have included salsa, smoothies, eggplant dip, pizza, egg rolls with cabbage and carrots, and stir fry.
While they make a dish, they talk about each ingredient going into it so that the youth understand what they’re putting into their body. They discuss where each ingredient fits into the MyPlate categories and portion control. She also teaches the youth how much it would cost them to make that dish at home versus eating at a restaurant or using a delivery service. The youth get to hand-craft their own meal, making it to their liking with her guidance while she teaches them how to safely use the oven or stove. Then, of course, they get to eat it when it’s ready!
What is MyPlate and why does it matter?
The United States Department of Agriculture created MyPlate, formerly known as the “food pyramid,” as a model for healthy eating. It reminds us that everything we eat and drink matters. Megan uses MyPlates to teach the youth how to incorporate the right mix of each food category (fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and dairy) into their eating habits so that they can live healthier lives.
Eating with Financial Responsibility in Mind
Some of the youth we treat at our facilities are 16-18 years old and may soon be living on their own with a fixed income. By learning how to make meals or fulfilling snacks that are economical and healthy, they’re able to smoothly transition to independent living with a little more peace of mind. For example, the youth loved learning how to make smoothies and this is a very cost-effective snack they can easily make on their own.
About KVC Hospitals
KVC Hospitals provides behavioral health services for children and teens ages 6-18 who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges. Each year, we help thousands of youth through our network of inpatient hospitals and psychiatric residential facilities by providing treatment, care, and skill-building so they can understand their diagnoses, connect to their support network and thrive.