By Gemma Greene, black doctor.org
Black girls do indeed rock, and 2016 Black Girls Rock M.A.D. (Making A Difference) Girls awardee Haile Thomas, from Tucson, Ariz., has been rocking way back since she was only five. As a 5-year-old she began her cooking career, helping her mother prepare the family meals — but not the ordinary chicken-fingers-and-grilled-cheese kid fare. “My parents are from Jamaica, so I grew up eating oxtail and jerk chicken,” she says. With her adventurous palate and knack for wielding a whisk, it wasn’t long before Thomas was helping plan the weekly menu.
The cooking started out of love for her dad.
“When I was 8 years old, my dad was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes, a disease caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices,” explains Thomas. “This diagnosis opened the eyes of my entire family. We started to learn about the importance of excercise and how food really effects the body, and realized that we were consuming way too much FAKE, FAST, & CHEAP foods with NO nutritional value.”
“We started to cook even more often at home, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise more. Within a couple of years my dad’s diabetes was completely reversed with no medication, only healthy lifestyle changes.”
“And while these amazing changes were happening for my family, I discovered that kids my age and younger were being diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and many other lifestyle related diseases,” continues Thomas. “I couldn’t help but notice that my friends at school or people I knew weren’t really aware of issues with food & exercise. And that made me wonder if a majority of American kids and families were just like those in my community. And I quickly discovered that they were.”
According to her website, in 2010, 9-year-old Thomas and her 4-year-old sister, Nia, started a YouTube channel called Kids Can Cook, featuring videos of the two whipping up dishes like turkey meatloaf in their Tucson kitchen. “We wanted to show that cooking isn’t hard,” says Thomas. “It’s great to learn, not only to feed yourself but also to know what’s healthy.”
Haile is now 15 years old, homeschooled, and the youngest student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, in training to become a Certified Health Coach (did we mention that she’s only 15? Amazing). Her advice for eating healthy is simple:
“Get over the idea that green is gross. And sample a new food at least 10 times before deciding you don’t like it. Your taste buds might tell you something different.”
“It’s a good age to be in command of a kitchen,” she continues. “I don’t need an adult’s help with much anymore. And it’s a good age to be influencing others. I’m not too old or too young, so my peers still listen to me.”
For more information on Haile and what she’s doing all over the country, click here.