8-year-old Boisean's healthy lunch recipe wins award

Boise Parks & RecreationSeptember 7, 2013 

Mac Wirth and his mom were trying to “think outside the sandwich” when they were cooking up a recipe to enter in a national contest.

Their efforts were rewarded when Mac’s delicious veggie barley salad with orange-honey vinaigrette was picked as the Idaho winner in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a competition promoted by first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, Epicurious magazine and the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Education.

Fifty-four winners joined the first lady July 9 for a Kids’ State Dinner featuring a healthy lunch of winning recipes followed by a visit to the White House kitchen garden.

For the second year, the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge invited parents and guardians to work with their children age 8-12 to create a lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable, original and delicious. In support of Let’s Move, each recipe adhered to the guidance that supports USDA’s MyPlate (ChooseMyPlate.gov) to ensure that the criteria of a healthy meal were met.

Entries had to represent each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy foods, with fruits and veggies making up roughly half the plate or recipe. More than 1,300 entries were submitted to the competition. The full list of winners and recipes can be found at recipechallenge.epicurious.com.

Mac and Kellie Wirth, an employee wellness consultant, created the recipe using ingredients found regularly in their kitchen.

“My mom and I make this to have something ready fast when we have busy mornings,” says Mac. “We change it up all the time depending on what vegetables we have. We use rice or pasta, too, if it’s left over. Sometimes we add basil, pesto and cheese. We could also add some beans or cut-up chicken. We make a bigger recipe and have some for dinner and pack the rest in our lunches. To fill up my lunch box, I like to add an apple, grapes or a banana.”

A third-grader this year at Collister Elementary School, Mac is inspired by the competitive triathletes he meets through his active mom and dad, Adam Wirth, an accountant. Mac and his 5-year-old sister, Lucy, “think it’s cool to eat healthy,” according to Kellie.

She recommends the resources available through ChooseMyPlate.gov. “I love the ChooseMyPlate.gov website because it gives a simple message to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Wirth said. “If you choose a food that you want to try, the website will show you serving sizes and provide recipes.”

Let’s Move Boise, a local organization affiliated with the nationwide campaign to combat childhood obesity, is promoting the competition by distributing Mac’s award-winning recipe to other elementary-age kids in Boise. The recipe was also reprinted in the Boise Parks and Recreation fall Activity Guide, handed out at wellness fairs and posted on websites.

“This year, we received very sophisticated recipe entries from all over the country that featured healthy ingredients like salmon, Greek yogurt and ground turkey, which made it a delicious challenge to select the finalists,” said Tanya Steel of Epicurious magazine.

Mac and his mother both attended the White House luncheon, which was hosted like a real state dinner. Each parent-kid pair was introduced as they arrived and strolled past the press corps.

“The girls who were 11 and 12 years old, they were a little bit more poised,” says Kellie. Her husband — watching the live stream of the event — said the older girls stopped in front of the press and introduced themselves. “My husband said we just practically ran, and when you look at the photos — the White House took photos — it goes Hawaii to Illinois. There are none of us. But we were really nervous.”

“It was super fun,” says Mac. “I got on the news, and the president walked around and shook everybody’s hand.”

“He teased you about your missing tooth,” says Kellie.

Other highlights from the Wirths’ trip to Washington included the Smithsonian’s air and space museum, and seeing the Betsy Ross flag and the hat and coat that Abraham Lincoln was wearing when he was shot.

The luncheon featured a cauliflower-crust pizza, zucchini and banana nut muffins, a passion fruit smoothie and Mac’s barley salad.

“When you see it on the menu, your stomach (does flip-flops) — what if nobody likes it?” says Kellie, “And then we tasted it, and it was delicious.”

Mac adds, “The whole table was like, ‘Mmm. How do you make this?’ ”

The Statesman’s Katherine Jones contributed to this story.

For more information about Let’s Move Boise, please contact Amy Stahl at astahl@cityofboise.org or 608-7611. Or visit LetsMoveBoise.com.

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