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Keeping It Cool


A few years ago, Cindy Sardo caught the episode of The Rachel Ray Show in which the perky celebrity chef unveiled her childhood obesity advocacy nonprofit, Yum-O! During the show, Ray encouraged viewers to take steps in their own community to combat the epidemic, and Sardo was inspired to act.

The former elementary school teacher and mother of three set out to combine her love of education and cooking by crafting a children’s book series designed to teach kids about healthy eating. She went on to release “Cooking’s Cool,” a four-part series featuring teacher Mrs. Sheff, who teaches her students the value — and fun! — of crafting healthy meals. 
The books quickly gained notice — including by Rachel Ray, who recognized them on her Yum-O! website. Sardo is now back in the classroom, leading regular classroom cooking demonstrations using the books for students, teachers and parents.
“The reaction has just been astounding,” Sardo says. “A lot of [children] are very tentative about eating vegetables, as you can imagine. Once they taste the healthy recipes I’ve created, they just love them.”
Each book highlights recipes designed to be crafted in a particular season. Sardo says she teaches students “to try to eat a rainbow of foods each day,” incorporating a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables into their diets. “It’s a really kid-friendly way to get that message of nutrition, really healthy food, across,” she says.

Part of Sardo’s motivation comes from her own experience as a mom. Sardo’s youngest daughter is a picky eater, and Sardo worked hard to craft tasty recipes would eat. 

“I think the trick in my experience is to get the kids involved in the kitchen handling fruits and vegetables and learning to prepare them in a tasty, healthy way,” Sardo adds. “Having just canned green beans isn’t going to get them to eat their vegetables.”

Sardo plans to continue to work with her local schools, as more than a dozen recently received cooking kits from the Chefs Move to School program. And Sardo hopes to continue to convince kids — and their parents — that cooking healthy meals can be cool.

“They’re not real kiddie recipies,” she says. “I didn’t want to be real kiddie-orientated. I wanted them to be enjoyed by an entire family.”