For as long as kids have been pulling cabin pranks, sitting by campfires and taking advantage of water sports , summer camps have always been a formative experience in people’s lives.
In Ardmore, it’s no different. There’s a plethora of camps which offer lessons on the outdoors, how to explode through a form tackle, catch a pop fly or splash a golf ball out from a bunker.
But this year, at the Ardmore Family YMCA, kids will learn how to do something a little different — how to eat.
This year, Mercy Hospital Dietician Emily Leahey will offer Healthy Cooking with Nutrition, a camp for eaters of all ages, teaching adults and kids how to make healthy choices and cook staples — like tacos and pizza — in a way that’s actually good for them.
While children can be among the most picky critics when it comes to food, especially when it’s billed as healthy, Leahey, who many kids in the area may know better by the name ‘Supergirl’, expects to do the same in her cooking camp.
It all starts with shifting ‘food perspective,’ she said.
“Right now we live in a culture that’s biased towards fast food industries that push really hard to make people think fresh eating is hard to be implemented into a daily diet.” Leahey said. “Our culture says if it’s not from a box and if you can’t heat it up in a microwave it’s crazy expensive, or it’s special food or hard to get. That’s not true, at all.
“I want to implant the idea that anyone can add fresh ingredients to their everyday meals. It’s easy, and it can make a big difference in a kids’ future.”
The cooking camp will be held at 11 a.m to noon beginning Monday and ends on Friday at the Ardmore YMCA.
Leahey will turn the YMCA’s ping pong room into an impromptu kitchen, bringing her portable oven and cooking materials from Mercy.
It’s the first year the camp has been offered but, for Leahey, teaching kids about healthy food is nothing new. In addition to her work as a registered dietician at Mercy, she dresses up as Supergirl, teaching kids about Superfoods for Take Two.
“I think that people take healthy eating as something where people are restricted on what they eat, I don’t like the word diet, it’s healthy eating,” she said. “It’s just eating fresh, colorful food. I tell kids if you eat colorful food you become a more colorful person, if you eat more whole or superfoods you become a whole and super person. If you eat fake foods, well, you could become fake.”
Given obesity rates and other related health issues in the area, Leahey said there’s room for improvement in Carter County as far as healthy eating is concerned.
One of the most prevalent issues in the area is the amount of sugar in most diets, Leahey said.
“I’ve noticed there’s a lot of hidden sugar and added sugar,” she said. “That’s where kids get addicted to bad food. Addiction starts early, and can set up people for a host issues down the road. Curbing added sugar from kids’ diets is one of the most important things to do.”
The camp costs $10 for YMCA members and $20 for the general public. Eaters of all ages are welcome to attend.