New Recipe for Home Economics
It’s time to bring back the classes for boys and girls alike—to combat obesity
Home economics classes have all but disappeared, which may not be good for students’ expanding waistlines.
In a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Alice H. Lichtenstein, the Stanley N. Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at the Friedman School, and co-author David Ludwig, a physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, call for the development of a modernized home ec curriculum—for girls and boys—that would reintroduce food preparation, menu planning and nutrition in the classroom.
Part of the current pediatric obesity epidemic can be blamed on our dependence on high-calorie, low-nutrient convenience foods. “If we don’t teach children how to cook healthy meals, it will be difficult for them to take control of what they eat to reverse course,” says Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.
The authors recommend hands-on food preparation classes, as well as instruction in food safety and nutrition basics. Field trips to farmers’ markets and grocery stores would help students get familiar with ingredients like prewashed salad greens, cut-up vegetables and whole-grain pasta.
“Schools would have to carve out some extra time out for cooking classes, but nutritional themes can easily be incorporated into the existing curriculum,” Lichtenstein says. “Discussions about diet-related diseases and calorie requirements can be folded into a science lesson. Math class is an opportunity to discuss food budgeting and calorie counting with older children.”