Cooking with Colors
Gillian Graham has always been very aware of what it means to have healthy eating habits. From a young age, she knew that including colorful fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods in her diet would work wonders.
Graham began educating kids about healthy eating when she was in high school, and she continued her efforts while she was at Southwestern by starting the Rainbow Foods Program for children in Taylor.
Now, the 2011 graduate has taken her efforts to a new level by publishing a cookbook that is available to everyone.
“After teaching Rainbow classes to students for several years both while I was in high school and at Southwestern, my time and resources did not allow me to reach as many students as I hoped,” said Graham, who graduated from Southwestern with a degree in English. “The cookbook is a way to provide nutrition curriculum to parents, students and to the children themselves, so that others besides myself can be teachers of the Rainbow concept of nutrition.
In her book, Graham breaks down this concept into three parts. The first tells kids to “find their colors,” encouraging them to go grocery shopping with their parents or guardians to select the ingredients they are going to use in the recipes. Next, they make the rainbow using the ingredients they’ve gathered for their meal. The book includes 32 recipes, ranging from drinks and dips such as watermelon juice and confetti cream cheese to snacks and meals such as veggie faces and turkey logs.
Finally, the book includes pictures that the kids can color in with markers or crayons, intended to be a kid-friendly way of remembering how the recipe was made.
Part of the innovation of Graham’s method is the fact that it teaches family nutrition starting with the kids. “Children are very open to learning and trying new things, so by focusing on children, I try to ingrain healthy habits at an early age that will stick with them as they grow up and become independent,” Graham said. “Adults can learn so much from children as well, so by targeting children and encouraging them to share what they learn with their families and friends, several generations can be reached.”
Graham sold the first copy of her book to a family friend who purchased it for her daughter, Madeleine, as a present for her fifth birthday. Ever since, Madeleine and her mother have been sending Graham pictures of their Rainbow meal creations. Graham has posted some of these to the cookbook’s Facebook page. Graham recently received a letter from another five-year old named Gwen. She and her father had made Monkey Milkshakes and Yogurt Parfaits from the book, and they sent Graham a picture of Gwen with her creations.
“It is extremely rewarding to receive feedback from children using my cookbook,” Graham said. “The kids are who the Rainbow Program is all about, so seeing them enjoy the recipes and activities is the most fulfilling part of my work.”
Graham’s book is available through AuthorHouse Publishing Company, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, and she has great hopes for its success. With each copy, she aims to solve the health issues that are so pervasive in America today, such as obesity. Graham also is attending medical school so she can better help in providing healthcare and teaching people about nutrition and preventative medicine.
Graham said another of her goals is to form a Rainbow product and activity line so that children, teachers and families can purchase materials such as placemats that will remind children to eat their colors.