LOS ANGELES, Cal.- “Club EATalian,” a city-wide educational program hosted by the Italian Trade Commission and the Italy America Chamber of Commerce West kicked off earlier today to showcase healthy alternatives to highly processed food-based meals for American kids and their parents. From the country that created the healthy Mediterranean diet, the “Club EATalian” initiative is designed to promote healthier eating habits and fast, fresh kid-friendly meals to help combat a national epidemic of obesity and diabetes now spreading across the globe.
Patrizia Giarratana, Deputy Director General of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development visiting from Rome explained her nation’s “good food” initiative in the U.S. and how “Club EATalian” will help promote easy ways for American families to incorporate authentic Italian food products into fast, fresh and nutritious meals.
“You are what you eat. We would like to give young people the opportunity to taste healthier alternatives based on authentic and easy to prepare Italian food,” Giarratana commented during the event hosted at the Italian Cultural Institute Los Angeles that was attended by educators, business executives and health officials. “We are opening a new world of fun and healthy foods for children to introduce good food that’s good for you. That’s what ‘Club EATalian’ is all about.”
The program also incorporated a consumer-focused panel discussion featuring nutrition and healthy cooking experts including Dr. Dena Herman, PhD, R.D, MPH and Adjunct Professor of the UCLA School of Public Health; Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW-FM’s “Good Food”, chef and owner Angeli Caffe; and Aida Mollenkamp, chef and healthy school lunch meals advocate. Food expert and television host Eric Boardman moderated the lively panel that discussed the importance of involving children in making better food choices early through shopping and meal preparation, and re-focusing meal times as a family occasion vs. a frenzied eat-and-run refueling stop.
“Obesity rates have been on a steady increase in the United States over the past three decades and have as much as tripled for some segments of the child population during this time, said UCLA’s Dr. Herman, citing statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control. “The potential consequence of this rise in obesity is that these children are growing up with an increased number of risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes as adults. Increasing physical activity and teaching the benefits of eating a healthier diet such as that exemplified by the Italian lifestyle could go a long way to improving these children’s health.”
“Italian favorites including pizza, pasta and bruschetta are the gateway to a lifelong love of good food as well as good health,” said Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW-FM’s “Good Food”, chef/owner Angeli Caffe and food policy advocate.
“It was as an honor to be invited to the Italian Cultural Institute to help shed light on issues important to me such as childhood obesity, encouraging kids to eat healthier and what we can all do to affect change,” commented Aida Mollenkamp, chef and host of Cooking Channel’s “FoodCrafters,” and “Ask Aida.”
The panelists also emphasized that nutritionally balanced meals are vital to children for proper growth, cognitive development, as well as maintaining a healthy weight that can lessen the incidence of diseases such as asthma and diabetes.
Tactics and tips for getting children more involved in and interested in healthy fresh foods include:
Encourage a sense of discovery by taking advantage of learning gardens at school, visiting local farmer’s markets, super markets and growing a few fresh vegetables or herbs at home.
Touch, feel and explore the different colors, fun shapes and tastes of vegetables and food ingredients.
After shopping, include kids in food preparation through simple tasks like scrubbing and cleaning potatoes or breaking and beating an egg that will go into a recipe.
Review school lunch menus and vary food served at home to insure proper nutritional composition.
For foods that kids already like, introduce variations by baking instead of broiling, or cook a meal on the BBQ grill.
Add new ingredients to a favorite food such as homemade pizza to vary colors and add nutrients.
Following the program, some of the Los Angeles region’s finest Italian chefs who have received the “Ospitalita’ Italiana” Seal of Authenticity presented an authentic and healthy Italian lunch and food tasting. Participating restaurants included:
Angelini Osteria, Chef Gino Angelini
Da Pasquale, Chef Pasquale Morra
Drago Centro, Chef Celestino Drago
Il Fornaio, Chef Maurizio Morra
Marino, Chef Salvatore Marino
Toscanova, Chef Davide Vedovelli
Additional “Club EATalian” Events in March:
Le Cordon Bleu Academy in Hollywood will offer a Master Chef program to teach young chefs the benefits of Mediterranean recipes and authentic Italian products. March 18, 2011
Larchmont Charter School in West Hollywood will host third-graders harvesting fresh vegetables from the school’s learning garden and then cook healthy pizzas and pasta under the guidance of top chefs. March 21, 2011.
Leading Los Angeles area restaurants will offer special Healthy Mediterranean family meal menus from March 26 – April 10 2011
Piccolo Chef, the leading kids cooking school in Los Angeles, will be holding free classes for children to make their own healthy recipes at the following participating restaurants: Il Fornaio, Marino, Toscanova, Drago Centro, Da Pasquale and Angelini Osteria. Open to the public.