Teen shares love of cooking and healthy eating through blog
March 5, 2014
By Kevin Vandenburg
With a passion for cooking delicious and healthy food, Newcastle teen Madeline Dalton started a blog as a place to share recipes with other people her age.
Dubbed Teens Can Cook, Too, the website is an online cookbook where teens can find food to make for themselves. Dalton, a student at Seattle’s The Bush School, started the blog in November 2010. She now posts recipes about once a week.
Many of the recipes are vegetarian and gluten-free, foreign combinations in the stereotypical teenage diet of soda and potato chips. In the United States, 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 are obese, a number that has tripled since 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I want to reverse the obesity epidemic,” Dalton said. “I want kids to realize what they’re eating and how they’re impacting themselves, their environment and their community.”
Dalton lives the active life of a high schooler. On top of her commitments to her blog, she’s in Girl Scouts, an actress in school and Youth Theater Northwest musicals and plays, and a dancer at the Cornerstone Dance Studio.
To help her manage the blog, Dalton recruited a team of peers. They help her brainstorm cooking ideas, shoot videos for the blog’s YouTube account, and write articles about food-related topics. Named the “Teens Can Cook Too Team,” the six-student squad is comprised of Dalton’s classmates, theater mates and friends.
“I became involved because I have always read the posts and gone on all the social media handles,” Annika Evens said. “One day I got a message from Madeline asking if I would like to be a part of her cooking team and, of course, agreed.”
A baking enthusiast who delights in decorating cakes and pastries, Evens said it’s never too early in anyone’s life to start cooking.
On the Web
“It’s an important skill for everyone to learn,” Evens said. “They can learn how to take care of themselves.”
Dalton said her two biggest influences are cooks Jamie Oliver and Rozanne Gold. Dalton was inspired by Oliver’s attempts to reverse growing obesity trends in American youth. She believes she could be a voice other teens relate to.
“I always thought that kids talking to kids was more effective than adults talking to kids,” Dalton said. “So, I figured I could be one of these kids who could change my generation.”
Dalton advocates modest practices for a healthy teenage diet. She said cutting just soda from a diet could undo much potential damage later in life.
“No step is too small,” she said.
She said she hopes the blog can be a voice against prevalent misinformation about food. She said the current food pyramid, created by the Department of Agriculture and called MyPlate, encourages people to eat the wrong food in the wrong portions.
“Those things are fine in moderation,” Dalton said. “But not in the prescribed quantities that we’ve bought into.”
Nutritionists seem to agree. The Harvard School of Public Health created its own eating guide called The Healthy Eating Pyramid. Exercise is the foundation, with vegetables and whole grains comprising the bulk of the pyramid.
Dalton doesn’t go out of her way to purchase specific or obscure foods for her recipes. She uses whatever she finds in her parents’ kitchen to make her meals. Her recipes include heavy doses of vegetables, which she admits could turn away some teenagers.
“Vegetables are so good for you that I have to include them,” Dalton said. “I try to sneak them in places.”
She said she gets her recipes from all over — from Instagram profiles online to paper-bound cookbooks like Gold’s “Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs.” Her perpetual quest to find healthy and tasty recipes has caught the attention of her peers.
“Madeline puts so much work into the blog,” said Isaac Uselman, her friend from middle school and blog team member. “Her passion is contagious.”
Dalton said her favorite part of having a blog about cooking is the platform to share her recipes and reflections on healthy eating to a wide audience.
“It’s a cool feeling to know that other people make your recipes and care about what you do,” she said. “I love that I can share my philosophy about food with my friends, family and strangers who read my blog weekly.”