Aug. 20, 2014

Hands down the most popular Culture and Education Program activity for our athletes has been Healthy Cooking, located right here in the Youth Olympic Games Village. It runs for one hour twice a day, and it’s been filled every single session. I’ve been encouraging our athletes to head over there and have a little break from the dining hall, learn some new cooking skills, and be introduced to the topic of sports nutrition.

As a former athlete myself, I didn’t receive sports nutrition education until I was in college, and it’s something that I wish I had been exposed to earlier. This opportunity for our young athletes to be educated by a top sports nutritionist and taught easy, simple and quick recipes that they can bring with them back home is an invaluable to their development as athletes.

From lamb kabobs to Chinese dumplings, from frozen yogurt to watermelon lime and mint shaved ice, the recipes are simple, easy and, most importantly, delicious. A sports nutritionist with the International Olympic Committee talks about the importance of nutrition towards athletic performance and how eating and cooking healthy doesn’t have to necessarily mean time consuming and expensive.

I attended the Healthy Cooking activity with Team USA’s female weightlifter Deirdre Lenzsch. We cooked Chinese dumplings and beef stir fry with sticky rice, then for dessert we made watermelon lime and mint shaved ice. We cooked alongside athletes from New Zealand and Australia, and ate with athletes from Korea, which gave us the opportunity to meet other cultures, hear about their traditional cuisines and share an unforgettable experience together.

The goal of these CEP programs is to get the athletes immersing themselves in the YOG, yet like Kyle Bowen, trampoline coach explained, the Healthy Cooking activity strives for more. Kyle explained that “since nutrition has such a strong impact on an athlete's performance, classes like these are invaluable.  If young athletes can understand the importance of proper nutrition and learn how to implement that knowledge by cooking for themselves, they will be that much ahead of the game.  Teaching them how to be healthy and efficient in the kitchen will definitely benefit and positively impact their performances.”

The Healthy Cooking activity goes throughout the duration of the Youth Olympic Games and there is no limit to how many times the athletes (and staff) can go through the lessons. So you can expect some expert healthy cooking chefs to be returning back to the U.S.!