THE BLOG
10/06/2011 12:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2011

Cooking for Huffington Post's Oasis and Teaching Healthy Eating Habits

Each year, the Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival brings together some of the biggest names in the food industry to celebrate all things food and drink in New York City and beyond. With delectable seminars, cooking demonstrations, panel discussions and the ever-popular Grand Tasting, the New York City Wine and Food Festival is a culmination of the hard work of everyone from food lovers to world-famous chefs. I had a blast at this year's Festival and was fortunate to participate in a few events throughout the weekend. Special guest chefs Andrea Reusing and Hedy Goldsmith joined me for the Festival kick-off dinner at my restaurant Red Rooster Harlem, and I joined fellow chefs Mario Batali and Andrew Zimmern as Dana Cowin from Food & Wine magazine, which hosted an intriguing panel discussion on our thoughts about the "Ultimate Restaurant Experience.'"

My favorite events however, were two cooking demonstrations with kids that I was able to participate in. The first was a demo in my own neighborhood of Harlem, called Fun and Fit in the City, and another was a demo in AOL & Huffington Post's Oasis in the Dream Hotel Downtown. The Oasis seemed like a magical, relaxing spa amid the hustle and bustle of all of the Festival's exciting activities. The space hosted a series of events with an emphasis on personal well being, from yoga to arts and crafts for kids, wholesome food stations, and simple and healthy cooking demos. In my demonstration, I featured my popular Avocado and Banana Smoothie and a Peanut Hummus with Pita Chips. Both were easy recipes that parents can make with their children, as well as recipes that included new and interesting flavors that can help expose kids to healthier and wider varieties of food.

What impressed me most about the AOL & Huffington Post's Oasis was how it allowed children to participate in the event's activities while introducing them to a new way of looking at healthy food. One fun activity for the kids was a giant coloring board with vegetable figures that the children were allowed to color in. I witnessed many happy faces as the kids each had a turn to doodle on the board. They were also encouraged to do arts and crafts with the help of a jewelry designer, Laura Lobdell. Even small activities like coloring and arts and crafts can slowly introduce kids to healthy foods and vegetables, a cause that I'm seeing more and more chefs getting involved in.

Cooking with your kids and engaging them in hands-on activities are two ways to begin to educate children about the healthy eating, and kickstart the important task to help change how the younger generation looks at food and nutrition.

We're currently plagued with the perception that fast food is a quick and convenient way to fuel up. And with the rising costs of foods, many people, especially lower income families, seek fast or processed foods as a means to feed their families. While at first this may seem like a more cost-effective option, the result in the long run can be devastating since our children become accustomed to unhealthy eating habits that can lead to obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Some studies have shown that preparing a healthy home cooked meal can actually be more affordable and definitely provide families with more nutrition.

I cannot stress a greater importance than to teach the young generation about the risks of unhealthy eating. A great way to pique their interest in nutrition is to involve them more in the cooking process. They not only will learn to cook for themselves, but also develop a lifetime of healthy habits.

I want to thank AOL and the Huffington Post for allowing me to participate in the cooking demonstration at the Oasis and look forward to future events with them. Check out my photos below of The Oasis cooking demo and follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks) for more updates on other healthy eating initiatives.

What are some ways you teach your kids about healthy eating habits?