If your local restaurant starts offering healthier food options to children, you may have Haile Thomas to thank.
The 10-year-old Marana girl is on a mission to build a better kid’s menu as part of a service-learning project she is overseeing with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Haile was recently appointed to the national organization’s Youth Advisory Board. It’s an honor she takes seriously.
“I want to see a change in my community,” she said. “Foods on the kids’ menus have an overload of starches. There’s not as much protein as kids need or calcium or vitamins that need to be in kids’ meals.”
Her goal is to encourage local restaurateurs to offer new, healthy and tasty menu choices that emphasize lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unsaturated fats.
McDonald’s recent announcement that it was reducing the amount of french fries in its kids’ meal and adding apple sticks didn’t impress Haile.
“They’re just cutting down on the portion size but at least they’re kind of trying,” she noted.
Haile knows her food. She is the host of the online show “Kids Can Cook” (www.kids-cancook.com). Along with her sister, Nia, 6, Haile demonstrates healthier eating choices that children and adults can prepare and enjoy.
This Saturday, she’ll bring those skills to the Gladden Farms Kids’ Fair, where she and Nia will join with Chef Ryan Clark, the winner of the 2011 Iron Chef Tucson competition. The three will focus on healthy back-to-school snacks, in keeping with the fair’s back-to-school fun theme.
The snacks will include homemade energy bars and smoothies.
Haile became interested in cooking at the age of 5. Her interest was nurtured by her mother, who allowed her to help plan and prepare family meals. In 2010, Haile attended a Girls Making Media workshop, where she was inspired to create the Kids Can Cook show.
The KCC website is filled with information families can use, such as food-shopping tips from a nutritionist, recipes and cooking safety.
The information helps Haile make better food choices.
“Fast food doesn’t digest well in our stomachs. After we stopped eating fast food, we felt a drastic change in our health,” she noted.
“If there’s something that we want to eat, we work to make a healthier version,” she said. “We make curry shrimp since our parents are Jamaican, and instead of serving it over white rice, we serve it in lettuce wraps,” she offered as an example.
As part of her build a better kids menu campaign, Haile will be surveying people who attend the Kids Can Cook demonstration at the kids’ fair with one simple question – Do you want a healthier kids menu at restaurants? She knows she does.
If you go
What: Gladden Farms Kids’ Fair
When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6
Where: Heritage House Farm Ramada, 12375 N. Heritage Park Drive, Marana
Activities: Healthy food demonstration by Kids Can Cook hosts Haile and Nia Thomas and Iron Chef Tucson winner Ryan Clark, kids craft booth, carnival-style games, bake sale, and collection of back-to-school supplies to benefit the Marana Unified School District.