Child Nutrition and Cooking


Stanford School of Medicine



Eating patterns that begin in childhood affect health and well-being across the lifespan. In the USA, we are in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic that threatens to leave our children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. As processed foods become more readily available around the world, other developed nations are beginning to follow suit. This course examines contemporary child nutrition in America from the individual decisions made by each family to the widespread food marketing targeting our children. The health risks associated with obesity in childhood are also discussed. Students will learn what constitutes a healthy diet for children and adults and how to prepare simple, delicious foods aimed at inspiring a lifelong celebration of easy home-cooked meals. This course will help prepare students to be the leading health providers, teachers and parents of the present and future.

Course Syllabus

Week one: Introduction to the problem - the childhood obesity epidemic facing the USA in particular and many developed nations who are following suit. Why should we care and what can be done? What are the current recommendations, how have they changed and how well are we doing in meeting our children's dietary needs? Cooking also starts this week with how to make a simple breakfast and a stir-fry. We also explore the six basic ingredients every cook should have on hand! 

Week two: What constitutes a balanced meal? What are carbohydrates, fats and proteins and how do we choose the healthiest of these? What is a glycemic index? Learn tricks for controlling portion sizes while maintaining satisfaction; cooking continues with more healthy breakfast alternatives, an easy dinner all in one dish, and a simple, (gluten-free) cake for special occasions. 

Week three: How to pack a quick, healthy lunch for a child and why this is so important; how to shop for fruits and vegetables and navigate the supermarket for better health; what are the benefits of the family meal? How can we "make over" our children's favorite foods, and help them enjoy healthier treats? 

Week four: How do plant a kitchen garden? Gardening as a way of getting children excited about fresh foods; learn what's meant by the terms "organic" and "locally grown"; learn more creative ideas for serving vegetables, how to involve children in the kitchen and basic techniques for making soups and cooking fish. 

Week five: Summing it all up. What have we learned about encouraging the right food choices despite environmental challenges like advertising and readily available processed foods? How can we make choices that benefit our health and the health of our planet? Cooking this week: the simple stew, a basic homemade salad dressing plus a Sunday morning treat that will make the whole family smile.

Recommended Background

If you have access to basic cooking equipment, a source of food ingredients and a healthy dose of curiosity, we welcome you to join this course.

Suggested Readings

Weekly optional readings, which can be accessed through the internet, will be posted for discussion amongst class members.

Course Format

This course can be enjoyed by a wide variety of students who are interested in promoting health and enjoyment throughout their lives and the lives of the children they care for. Short 3-9 minute videos with integrated, introductory-level quizzes are paired with a collection of "blackboard style" videos that help us better understand our food. Dynamic food-preparation assignments and opportunities to collaborate with classmates around the world will add spice and flavor to this one-of-a-kind course.


Maya Adam, MD, Lecturer, Stanford School of Medicine

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Delivery Option:
Online Course Free


Coursera Course Certificate Available for a Fee

You can earn a Course Certificate for this Coursera course. A Course Certificate is proof that you completed and passed the course.

In order to get a Course Certificate, you must:

This course may not currently be available to learners in some states and territories.