Four Reasons to Get Your Teen in the Kitchen

Teens in the Kitchen.jpgNot all teenagers want to help out in the kitchen. But encouraging them to do so is a worthy goal because of the many benefits.

Why get your teens in the kitchen?

Promotes conversation – When you cook with your children, you can model good communication.  Studies have shown that the more teens communicate with their parents on a daily basis, the less likely they are to participate in risky behaviors.

They’ll be more likely to eat It – Do you have picky eaters?  Teens will be more likely to try new things if they are able to help prepare the meals they are eating. They will also be getting a more balanced diet when meals are prepared in the home.

Promotes confidence in the kitchen – As teens grow into adulthood, the task of feeding themselves becomes their own. We need to prepare our kids with skills for the future to help make the transition into adulthood more successful. And the likelihood of them having to feed a family of their own one day is pretty high!

Reinforces science and math – What a great way to “trick” kids into doing math and science.  They have so much fun in the kitchen, many times they forget they are learning new skills and applying many math and science concepts. Help your teens develop a love of cooking and at the same time, they will be making connections to other aspects of their learning.

USU Extension’s Youth Can Cook Program

Do you have a teen looking for more cooking experience? Here are five reasons they should join the Youth Can Cook program.

1. Be part of a group!

Come and make friends with other teens who don’t attend your school, who view the world differently than you do, and are excited to learn! Youth Can Cook brings together teens from all over the county, giving them a chance to learn and grow in different and distinct ways.

2. Master Food Preserver Course – kitchen skills

Do you have a favorite salsa your grandma makes every fall? Or have you ever broken out a bottle of canned peaches in the middle of winter and had flashbacks to summer time? Food preservation gives us the ability to enjoy our favorite foods all year round! Teens will learn food preservation techniques from community Master Food Preservers. These skills will later be used  as part of their Youth Can Cook paid apprenticeship as they assist in future food preserver courses.

3. Food Safety Managers Certification

Jobs available to teens are likely to involve food, and working in a food establishment requires a food handler’s permit. As a part of the Youth Can Cook program, teens are guided through the Food Safety Managers course (ServSafe equivalent). Youth will participate in hands-on activities that help solidify the concepts learned. This is an $80 course that is free to program participants.

4. Job, life, and relationship skills

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the data collected showed that teamwork/collaboration, oral and written communications, and critical thinking/problem solving were all identified as “absolutely essential” to be career ready.

Teens will leave the program with a fresh resume, interviewing and communicating skills, and the ability to navigate relationships in the job sector.

5. Paid apprenticeship & job reference

Teens will apprentice community educators to get a feel for what it’s like to work in the professional world. They will be given responsibilities and tasks to demonstrate the skills they learned throughout the program. The apprenticeship lasts 50 hours, and teens are paid $9.50 an hour — more than $2 over minimum wage.

Learn more about the Youth Can Cook program here.

Information for this article was submitted by Ashlee Christiansen, Youth Can Cook program coordinator, Washington County, and Katie Kapp, Youth Can Cook program coordinator, Salt Lake County



Sleep Superheroes

Sleep SuperheroesA light supper, a good night’s sleep, and a fine morning have often made a hero of the same man who, by indigestion, a restless night, and a rainy morning, would have proved a coward.

–Lord Chesterfield

As parents, we know our children need a healthy, balanced diet to perform well in school. However, do we recognize what a vital role sleep plays in student performance? Teenagers extend their waking hours to accommodate school, work, sports and social life, cutting back on hours meant for sleep. Yet, whether they are teenagers or younger kids, even Superheroes need sleep to be at their best! Research shows that:

  • Shortened sleep times seem to cause higher levels of anxiety (Silva, et al. 2017).
  • Shortened sleep times seem to cause an increase in feelings of hunger, but a decrease in food enjoyment (Silva, et al. 2017).
  • A one-hour increase of sleep time is associated with a 14 percent decrease in the odds of being obese (Timmermans, et al., 2017).
  • Teenagers who consistently went to bed late craved more high-sugar foods at breakfast, and then continued to eat 53 percent  more food throughout the day (Asarnow, et al., 2017).
  • These same teenagers, when they altered their habits and went to bed earlier, voluntarily chose healthier foods for breakfast (Asarnow, et al., 2017).

Less anxiety, decrease in obesity, healthier food choices…there’s no question that sleep should be  an important part of your Superhero’s diet!

This article was written by Cathy Merrill, Family and Consumer Sciences, Extension Assistant Professor, USU Extension, Utah County


Asarnow, L.D., Greer, S.M., Walker, M.P., & Harvey, A.G. (2017). The impact of sleep improvementon food choices in adolescents with late bedtimes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 60¸ 570-576.  Accessed at

Silva, A.A.S.C., do Vale Cardoso Lopes, T., Teixeira, K.R., Mendes, J.A., de Souza Borba, M.E., Mota, M.C.,

Waterhouse, J., Crispim, C.A. (2017). The association between anxiety, hunger, the enjoyment of eating foods and the satiety after food intake in individuals working a night shift compared with after taking a nocturnal sleep: A prospective and observational study. Appetite, 108, 255-262. Accessed at  

Timmermans, M., Mackenbach, J.D., Charreire, H., Bardos, H., Compernolle, S., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., Oppert, J.-M., Rutter, H., McKee, M., Lakerveld, J. (2017). Preventive Medicine, 100, 25-32. Accessed at

Save the Date: Wasatch Front 4-H Cooking Contest


Do you have a kid who loves to cook? Have them compete in our upcoming 4-H cooking contest for a chance to prove their skills.

Utah State University Extension 4-H will sponsor cooking contests on Saturday, Jan. 28, for youth from Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. Held at the Legacy Events Center in Davis County, the contests will provide youth the opportunity to showcase cooking, food safety and nutrition knowledge and skills as they represent their counties and cities.

According to Zuri Garcia, USU Extension assistant professor and event chair, the contests will also prepare youth to compete in the 4-H State Contests held at USU each summer.

“It is important for youth to develop and feel confident in their nutrition knowledge and cooking abilities,” she said. “These contests will help youth as young as 8 become assured enough in their skills that they can compete at the state level when they are older. Through this event and others like it, we hope to help youth develop important life skills.”

The contests include two categories: favorite foods and healthy cuisine. The favorite foods category is for third through 12th graders, and contestants will be judged on the selection, knowledge and presentation of their favorite food. Healthy cuisine is for fifth through 12th graders who will use their talents in planning and preparing a quick, nutritious meal in 1 hour, including preparation and cleanup. Contestants can register for this category as an individual or team.

Registration deadline is January 14. Contest registration fee is $20 for one or both categories. Previous 4-H membership is not required, but participants must register for 4-H at the time of the contests for an additional fee of $15. This covers a 1-year 4-H membership.

Friends, family and the public are invited to watch the contests and attend a nutrition and health fair that includes workshops and booths. Admission is free. An awards celebration will be held at the end of the day.

To register, contact Susan Adams at or 801-451-3423. For further information, visit

Four Tips for Teens Looking to Land a Summer Job

Job Tips for Teens

The beginning of summer means that teens are out of school and looking for work. Check out these tips to help your teen find and get a great summer job.

Put Your Teens to Work!

Teens who have the opportunity to earn money and develop good work habits now will receive great payoffs when applying for educational or employment opportunities in the future.

According to Renee Ward, founder of, “We have millions of teens who will have never had a job by the time they are age 20…. I believe if they never have the fulfillment of a job, they’ll be frustrated and that becomes perpetuating.”

A review of online articles addressing employment for teens reveals four common tips for landing a job.

1. Start early. This is the most often-mentioned tip. Most employers know how much additional help they will need over the summer months by the end of April. Few of them want to wait until school is out to start interviewing potential employees.

2. Stop by the business. While many businesses post positions online, others prefer to post a job announcement on the door. It is worth the effort to stop by in person. Go to the business prepared to share ideas on how you could be an asset to the company. Some employers may find a place for you simply based on your willingness to “pound the pavement.”

3. Put your best foot forward. Shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops will generally not make the best impression to a potential employer. Though Sunday best is not required to interview for most part-time jobs, a clean, neat appearance with modest clothing is a must. Speaking with respect, good manners and good language skills to a potential employer shows that you are mature and can communicate well.

4. Cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship. Is there a service you can offer? Ideas include teaching lessons, setting up smart phones for senior citizens, running errands for home-bound or busy adults, doing house or yard work, providing child or elder care, event and party planning, walking and/or caring for pets, washing and detailing cars, washing windows or painting. Creativity can pay off. And even if some jobs pay little or nothing, having a job to add to a resume may give you the edge for future openings.

Additional places for teen job seekers to check include:

* Parks, recreation areas, campgrounds, day and summer camps, swimming pools and golf courses

* Concession areas for sporting events

* Hotels, resorts, museums and other tourist-related destinations

* Fast food and casual dining restaurants including ice cream parlors and juice retailers

* Moving and packing companies

Teens may resent having to work early mornings, late nights or weekends during the summer, but if they adhere to a schedule, have a good work ethic and save part of what they earn, they will gain important skills that will help throughout their lives.  

This article was written by Kathy Riggs, Utah State University family and consumer sciences professor, 435-586-8132,

Parents Empowered: Underaged Drinking

Author – Nikki Capener


Parents often believe that school policies or church teachings will keep their kids away from alcohol use, but too often that is not the case. New, disturbing research indicates that the developing adolescent brain may be susceptible to long-term, negative consequences of alcohol use. Adolescent alcohol use is a serious threat to adolescent development and health. Parents are the most powerful influence on their children. It is important to stay connected, monitor and create lasting bonds with your child.

Did you know?

  • In Utah, underage drinking now begins as early as elementary school.
  • The brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20s.
  • Negative effects of alcohol last far longer in a teen’s brain than in an adult’s.
  • Underage drinking can keep the good judgment and impulse-control part of the brain from properly developing.
  • More teens die from the results of alcohol use than all other illegal drugs combined.

But, did you also know?

  • Parents are the most powerful influence on their children’s behavior.
  • Children usually listen to their parents more than anybody else, including their friends.
  • Children who feel close to their parents are less likely to drink.
  • Knowing where your children are, who they’re with and what they’re doing helps prevent underage drinking.

Parents are often unaware of their child’s alcohol use. In a recent national survey, 31 percent of kids who had been drunk in the past year said they had parents who believed their children were nondrinkers. Take action! Start talking to your child about underage drinking before age eight. gives 3 research-proven skills to help prevent underage drinking.

  1. Bond with your children.
  • Create a positive, loving home environment.
  • Have daily positive interaction.
  1. Set boundaries for your children.
  • Set clear rules and expectations.
  • Help your children choose friends wisely.
  1. Monitor your children.
  • Know your child’s environment.

For additional tips and more information, visit


Nikki Capener is a student at Utah State University studying family and consumer science education. She is the family and consumer sciences intern in Box Elder County and has loved working with the Extension faculty and 4-H youth. Her experience working with Extension has been incredibly beneficial and she has learned much while working with Ann Henderson. Her hobbies include running, cooking, sewing and making crafts.