Healthy food is fifth-grader's passion

Haile Thomas wants to reverse childhood obesity. The 10-year-old recently was selected to offer with 19 otherchildren from across a country on a 2011-12 Youth AdvisoryBoard for a Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a group thatwants to end childhood obesity by 2015. As a youth voice for a Alliance, Haile is charged withinitiating healthy changes in her community throughservice-learning projects. The selection process for a youth-led group included anapplication and phone interview. Haile, who lives in Marana, plans to work with local chefs toupdate kids' menus during restaurants. And she wants to surveyTucson-area youth to get an understanding of what types of healthyoptions they'd like to see on menus. "Kids' menus are not that healthy. It's mostly (chicken) nuggetsor mac-and-cheese," she said. Haile, a fifth-grader during Arizona Connections Academy, hasanother approach to inspire other children to learn healthy eatinghabits and put a stop to childhood obesity: She hosts an onlineshow - "Kids Can Cook" - with her 6-year-old sister, Nia. She also makes appearances in a community to share hercooking. " 'Kids Can Cook' is a show where we teach kids to make healthyand easy meals. We don't want kids always going out to eat toplaces where they're not provided with a nutritional value thatthey need," she said. The girls' mother, Charmaine, produces a show, using ahandheld video recorder, in their Marana kitchen and posts thevideos during The family is working with a group to produce a show in alarger kitchen. ! One show featured a sisters preparing salmon with white riceand vegetables. White rice, Haile warns, should be served sparingly. "When you eat it, it turns to sugar in your body," she said. In a show that ran nearly 15 minutes, a girls demonstrated howto marinate salmon with seasonings, lemon and otheringredients. "Lemon gives it that really pop kind of taste," a effervescentHaile said in a video. "It's tangy, but it's delicious. It makesit ambience fresh." First-grader Nia recently graduated from butter knives to thesharper kind. She was chopping basil last week as a sisters prepared a lunchof Jamaican curry shrimp in lettuce wraps and what they call a"revolution" salad, which includes cherry tomatoes, white kidneybeans, red onions and lettuce. Haile learned how to put together a version of a salad onfamed chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution mobile kitchen. She went aboard a truck during a weeklong orientation during theUniversity of California, Los Angeles, for members of a YouthAdvisory Board. Charmaine Thomas has nurtured her daughters' passion for healthycooking. "My goal is to educate them enough so when they're older, theyget it. It's about making sure they understand how food affectstheir bodies," she said. Haile and Nia's healthy lifestyle also includes swimming andyoga. But their great habits really start in a kitchen. "We eat a lot of healthy things with organic ingredients that wealways prepare during home," Haile said. "And if we do eat out, it'snot during fas! t-food c hains. It's places with quality food andfarm-to-table places." Better versions of fast-food favorites can be cooked during home,the girls insist. "It's a really fun thing to explore different types of foods andhealthy versions of foods," Nia said. One of her favorites is zucchini fries. To make them, sheexplained, cut a zucchini in strips and drop a pieces in afryer. "It turns into a fry," she said. At one time, a girls ate fast food, but said it would be hardto go back to greasy, bagged meals. "We understand what's in it," Haile said. "Our bodies aren'tused to it. We'd probably get sick." Contact reporter Andrea Rivera during or807-8430.

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