Lil' Chef offers tots to teens lessons in fitness, healthy eating, etiquette
Posted January 2, 2011 8:57 p.m. EST
Susan Caldwell made some major life changes about three years ago after her son's diagnosis with autism.
She quit her job, that required travel, and she got in shape, losing 150 pounds. Her weight loss earned her recognition in People magazine a couple of years ago where she told of how she lost the weight the "old-fashioned way."
It also launched a new career for the Raleigh native and mom of two in part so her family could afford the specialized therapy that her son Cameron receives at Duke Medicine and she could spend more time with her kids Abby, 8, and Cameron, 5.
She became a certified personal trainer and started Hi 5 Fitness for kids ages 11 and up, focusing on fitness. Healthy eating was always part of her message to her students especially as the number of obese kids climbs. According to the 2004 N.C. Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveillance System, childhood obesity affects more than one in four kids ages 12 to 18, more than one in five kids ages 5 to 11 and one in eight preschoolers.
Parents told her they wanted more. Lil' Chef was born, offering classes on healthy cooking and eating. It moved out of her home a year ago and now takes up a store front at Falls River Town Center in north Raleigh. The popular cooking program offers classes for preschoolers (starting this month) to teens, along with birthday parties, camps and more. At her weekly cooking classes, kids make dinner for themselves and eat it there.
"The idea is to help them boost their self confidence and teach them skills that they can use all their life," Caldwell tells me. "If they make it themselves, they tend to eat it."
And now Caldwell is branching out into another topic for kids - etiquette. Starting this month, Lil Chef will offer a cotillion and etiquette program for kids ages 6 to 9 and 10 and up. The program will teach kids life skills from how to answer the telephone to dining skills and more. It's something that Caldwell had stressed in her classes, but, again, parents asked her for more.
"We see so many kids who come in here and say 'give me this and give me that,'" she said.
To learn more about Caldwell's programs and sign up for her classes, check the Lil' Chef website and watch the video. And be sure to check back every day this week when Go Ask Mom will be offering healthy recipes, including one from Caldwell on Friday.