Cooking is an Eagle-required merit badge that’ll teach you skills to safely prepare a meal in any location. You’ll also learn about proper nutrition, food storage, as well as different cooking techniques.
When I was a scout, earning the Cooking merit badge taught me to quickly prepare much better food. No more instant ramen when camping! Hopefully, this guide will teach you the skills needed to earn your Cooking merit badge and create great meals for your patrol.
The Cooking merit badge is heavy on knowledge requirements, so be prepared. This badge will likely take a few weeks to complete. Take the time to read through each of the following requirements and fully understand what you’ll be learning.
Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Rankings to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!
Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!
To complete this badge, you’ll also need access to some cooking gear. For your camp cooking, I’d highly recommend this affordable Nonstick Pan + Mess Kit combo on Amazon. Being able to eat out of the same mess kit you’ve cooked with is a gamechanger, and will save you a ton of backpack space! Now, without further ado, let’s get you started on earning your Cooking merit badge. 🙂
What Are The Cooking Merit Badge Requirements?
- Health and Safety. Do the following:
a. Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while participating in cooking activities and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards
b. Show that you know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses that could occur while preparing meals and eating, including burns and scalds, cuts, choking, and allergic reactions.
c. Describe how meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products, and fresh vegetables should be stored, transported, and properly prepared for cooking. Explain how to prevent cross-contamination.
d. Discuss with your counselor food allergies, food intolerance, and food-related illnesses and diseases. Explain why someone who handles or prepares food needs to be aware of these concerns.
e. Discuss with your counselor why reading food labels is important. Explain how to identify common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish.
- Nutrition. Do the following:
a. Using the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model, give five examples for EACH of the following food groups, the recommended number of daily servings, and the recommended serving size: a1) Fruits, a2) Vegetables, a3) Grains, a4) Proteins, a5) Dairy
b. Explain why you should limit your intake of oils and sugars.
c. Determine your daily level of activity and your caloric need based on your activity level. Then, based on the MyPlate food guide, discuss with your counselor an appropriate meal plan for yourself for one day.
d. Discuss your current eating habits with your counselor and what you can do to eat healthier, based on the MyPlate food guide.
e. Discuss the following food label terms: calorie, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugar, protein. Explain how to calculate total carbohydrates and nutritional values for two servings, based on the serving size specified on the label.
- Cooking Basics. Do the following:
a. Discuss EACH of the following cooking methods. For each one, describe the equipment needed, how temperature control is maintained, and name at least one food that can be cooked using that method: baking, boiling, broiling, pan frying, simmering, steaming, microwaving, grilling, foil cooking, and use of a Dutch oven.
b. Discuss the benefits of using a camp stove on an outing vs. a charcoal or wood fire.
c. Describe with your counselor how to manage your time when preparing a meal so components for each course are ready to serve at the same time.
- Cooking at Home.
Using the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model, plan a menu for three full days of meals (three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners) plus one dessert. Your menu should include enough to feed yourself and at least one adult, keeping in mind any special needs (such as food allergies) and how you kept your foods safe and free from cross-contamination. List the equipment and utensils needed to prepare and serve these meals.
Then do the following:
a. Create a shopping list for your meals showing the amount of food needed to prepare and serve each meal, and the cost for each meal.
b. Share and discuss your meal plan and shopping list with your counselor.
c. Using at least five of the 10 cooking methods from requirement 3, prepare and serve yourself and at least one adult (parent, family member, guardian, or other responsible adult) one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, and one dessert from the meals you planned. *
d. Time your cooking to have each meal ready to serve at the proper time. Have an adult verify the preparation of the meal to your counselor.
e. After each meal, ask a person you served to evaluate the meal on presentation and taste, then evaluate your own meal. Discuss what you learned with your counselor, including any adjustments that could have improved or enhanced your meals. Tell how better planning and preparation help ensure a successful meal.
- Camp Cooking. Do the following:
a. Using the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model, plan a menu for your patrol (or a similar size group of up to eight youth, including you) for a camping trip. Your menu should include enough food for each person, keeping in mind any special needs (such as food allergies) and how you keep your foods safe and free from cross-contamination. These five meals must include at least one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, AND at least one snack OR one dessert. List the equipment and utensils needed to prepare and serve these meals.
b. Create a shopping list for your meals showing the amount of food needed to prepare and serve each meal, and the cost for each meal.
c. Share and discuss your meal plan and shopping list with your counselor.
d. In the outdoors, using your menu plan for this requirement, cook two of the five meals you planned using either a lightweight stove or a low-impact fire. Use a different cooking method from requirement 3 for each meal. You must also cook a third meal using either a Dutch oven OR a foil pack OR kabobs. Serve all of these meals to your patrol or a group of youth. **
e. In the outdoors, prepare a dessert OR a snack and serve it to your patrol or a group of youth.**
f. After each meal, have those you served evaluate the meal on presentation and taste, and then evaluate your own meal. Discuss what you learned with your counselor, including any adjustments that could have improved or enhanced your meals. Tell how planning and preparation help ensure successful outdoor cooking.
g. Explain to your counselor how you cleaned the equipment, utensils, and the cooking site thoroughly after each meal. Explain how you properly disposed of dishwater and of all garbage.
h. Discuss how you followed the Outdoor Code and no-trace principles when preparing your meals.
- Trail and backpacking meals. Do the following:
a. Using the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model, plan a menu for trail hiking or backpacking that includes one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, and one snack. These meals must not require refrigeration and are to be consumed by three to five people (including you). Be sure to keep in mind any special needs (such as food allergies) and how you will keep your foods safe and free from cross-contamination. List the equipment and utensils needed to prepare and serve these meals.
b. Create a shopping list for your meals, showing the amount of food needed to prepare and serve each meal, and the cost for each meal.
c. Share and discuss your meal plan and shopping list with your counselor. Your plan must include how to repackage foods for your hike or backpacking trip to eliminate as much bulk, weight, and garbage as possible.
d. While on a trail hike or backpacking trip, prepare and serve two meals and a snack from the menu planned for this requirement. At least one of those meals must be cooked over a fire, or an approved trail stove (with proper supervision).**
e. After each meal, have those you served evaluate the meal on presentation and taste, then evaluate your own meal. Discuss what you learned with your counselor, including any adjustments that could have improved or enhanced your meals. Tell how planning and preparation help ensure successful trail hiking or backpacking meals.
f. Discuss how you followed the Outdoor Code and no-trace principles during your outing. Explain to your counselor how you cleaned any equipment, utensils, and the cooking site after each meal. Explain how you properly disposed of any dishwater and packed out all garbage.
- Food-related careers.
Find out about three career opportunities in cooking. Select one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.
Health and Safety
Do the following:
1a) Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while participating in cooking activities and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards
Below are the three most common cooking-related hazards. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are admitted to hospitals on account of these three injuries and illnesses. When working on your cooking merit badge, be aware of these hazards and stay safe.
Foodborne illnesses are the most likely hazard you’ll encounter when cooking and can cause indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting, and hospitalization. Although you won’t be able to tell visually whether food has gone bad, there are a few rules you can follow to help prevent this hazard from occurring:
- Always wash your hands and utensils before cooking.
- Use all ingredients before the expiration date.
- Don’t consume anything that smells funny.
- If you believe an ingredient may have gone bad, throw it out. It isn’t worth the risk.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meats and vegetable products.
- Avoid consuming any animal products that are not thoroughly cooked.
- Clean stoves and countertops with a washed rag immediately after use.
- Keep all of your cooking supplies and surfaces free of food residue.
By following these basic health guidelines, you’ll greatly reduce risks of food or bacterial poisoning. However, if you do get sick after consuming bad food, know that you should feel better within 48 hours. In the meantime, drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes. If your condition does not improve, seek medical attention.
Accidental poisoning is another common risk when cooking. Be extremely careful what you’re adding to food, especially when using aerosol cooking sprays. The best way to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning is to keep cleaning and cooking supplies in separate rooms. All poisons and insecticides should be far away from the kitchen.
If you or someone you know has been poisoned, immediately call 911. In non-urgent cases (no symptoms) you can also call the poison control number: 1-800-222-1222. Symptoms of chemical poisoning could include nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, or abnormal skin color.
Most cases of chemical poisoning from food are not fatal if treated quickly (below 1%), so immediately contact medical attention and calmly explain the situation and the victim’s symptoms. When waiting for an ambulance, gather information on the poison (bottle, labels, packaging) for the medical team. Do not try to induce vomiting in the victim.
Oil and grease can cause kitchen floors to become slippery. This becomes especially dangerous when a cook is surrounded by hot stoves, knives, and glassware. To prevent slips, keep your kitchen floor clean and dry. Move carefully, and wear footwear with reliable rubber grips whenever possible.
Falls can be mild or severe, depending on the situation. Always try to remove the victim from the risk of further harm, and extinguish any open flames that could spread. After those two risks are mitigated, provide care to the victim. When treating a fall, check for concussions, broken bones, and general disorientation.
1b) Show that you know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses that could occur while preparing meals and eating, including burns and scalds, cuts, choking, and allergic reactions.
Burns and Scalds:
In the kitchen, burns are often caused by contact with hot objects such as heated metal, electrical sources, or open flames. Scalds are burns that are caused by wet-heat, such as boiling fluids or steam. To treat most types of kitchen related scalds or burns:
- Remove the person from further harm, and prevent any fires from spreading.
- Run the burn under lukewarm water for 10 to 20 minutes. Never use ice or cold water, as this could cause more damage.
- Allow the burn to dry, then lightly cover it with a clean layer of plastic wrap.
- Ensure the victim is kept warm with a blanket, but avoid touching the burned area.
- Painkillers such as ibuprofen can be used to treat pain in the following days.
However, some serious burns will require emergency medical treatment. Call 911 if the burn is:
- Blistered and at least the size of the victim’s hand.
- White in color, or has charred the skin.
- Caused by either a chemical or electrical source.
- Causing the victim enormous pain.
To reduce the likelihood of burns, you should:
- Keep stoves turned off when not in use.
- Turn any pot/pan handles towards the back of the stove to avoid snagging on clothing.
- Keep your stove and oven clean and free of grease to prevent flare-ups.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing when cooking.
When handling knives, exercise extreme caution to avoid any accidental cuts. If someone cuts themselves and is bleeding, you should make sure they’re out of further danger, then work to limit their loss of blood. After first calling 911, perform the following 5 steps:
- Clean the wound: If possible, remove any dirt or debris from the wound to prevent infection. Do not pull out anything embedded in the wound as this could cause much more bleeding.
- Apply steady pressure to the wound: Using a sterile cloth or bandage, press into the wound with a steady pressure to stop the bleeding.
- Immobilize the wound: If blood soaks through the compress, do not remove it. Place another bandage over the first, and continue applying pressure. Eventually, the blood should clot and the bleeding should slow.
- Elevate the wound: By raising the wound above the level of the heart, gravity helps to halt the blood flow. Lay the victim down and have them raise the wound as high as possible.
- Assist the victim until help arrives: Once their wound has been treated, your task is to keep the victim as comfortable as possible until emergency medical personnel arrive. Ensure that they are not too hot or too cold, and talk to them to keep them calm.
If someone is severely bleeding, skip to step 2 and immediately apply pressure to the wound. Once the blood seeps through the first bandage, place another bandage over it and continue to apply pressure. Your goal should be to have the wound clot to the bandage. This will minimize blood loss and provide the victim with the best chance at survival.
To lower your risk of accidental cuts or lacerations:
- Always use a sharp knife. Dull blades require more pressure to cut things and increase your likelihood of slipping.
- Always cut over a cutting board. Don’t hold things in your hand while cutting them.
- When holding ingredients to cut, don’t keep your fingers extended. Curl your fingers into a loose fist so that any mistakes will not cause you to lose a finger.
- Avoid putting hot glass into water, as it could shatter.
- Be careful opening metal cans, as lids can be sharp.
Choking occurs when an object becomes lodged in a victim’s windpipe and blocks their airflow. If the person who’s choking is still able to cough, weakly breathe, or speak, encourage them to cough up the object. This means that they are still getting some air into their lungs. You can help them by using your palm to hit the top of their back in steady blows to help them cough.
To respond to a choking emergency, imagine a torso as a bag of air. You’re basically trying to abruptly squeeze that air out of the victim’s windpipe. The quick burst of air pressure will dislodge the choking hazard and allow the victim to breathe.
However, if a choking victim cannot speak, cough, or breathe, you’ll need to take immediate action. To respond to a choking emergency, perform the Heimlich maneuver:
- Ask the victim if they’re choking. If they can’t respond, proceed to step two. If they’re able to weakly respond and breathe, use your palm to hit the top of their back. This will help them to cough and dislodge the object.
- Stand behind the person and let them know you’re about to help.
- Make a fist with one hand and place that fist on the person’s abdomen (right above their belly button). Reach around the choking person and grab your closed fist.
- Quickly pull your arms inwards and upwards in one sharp motion. This should force air up and out their windpipe. Repeat this motion until an object flies from their mouth.
- Check if they’re able to breathe. If they still have objects in their windpipe preventing air flow, continue the Heimlich maneuver until they are able to breathe on their own.
- If the victim loses consciousness, instruct someone else to call 911. Continue working to clear the person’s airway.
Choking can easily be prevented. Here are a few things to keep in mind to avoid choking emergencies in the future. Food is the most common cause of choking. Eating too quickly or not chewing your food will greatly raise your likelihood of choking. If you find yourself choking, try to keep calm and gesture to your throat. You’re also able to perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself.
To perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself: Lean over a rounded object or chair. Position the head of the object into your abdomen, and push down forcefully. Reposition after every 3 blows to push the most air possible out your windpipe. Repeat until the object is dislodged.
Allergies are common. In fact, about 1 in 15 US residents are allergic to some type of food. When consuming the food they are allergic to, also called an allergen, a person with allergies may experience a range of negative symptoms, including itching, swelling, and even loss of breath.
Anaphylactic reactions are one of the more dangerous symptoms of allergies and cause immediate swelling in the neck and face. This often leads to difficulty breathing and can prove fatal if left untreated. However, most people with severe allergies carry an EpiPen.
An EpiPen can counteract most of the effects of an allergic reaction. To use an EpiPen, remove the safety cap and press the needle into the victim’s thigh. Note that the effect of an EpiPen is temporary and the person must still quickly receive medical attention. More on allergies in section 1d.
1c) Describe how meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products, and fresh vegetables should be stored, transported, and properly prepared for cooking. Explain how to prevent cross-contamination.
Food becomes dangerous when kept at warm temperatures for too long. Illness-causing bacteria tend to grow more quickly in foods stored in temperatures above 40°F. As a general rule, it’s best to ensure foods are stored and transported at the same or colder temperatures that they were kept in at the store.
Store meats within sealed containers to keep their juices contained. Keep refrigerated or frozen until use, and cook to the required temperature to kill any common bacterias. Different types of meats are handled differently. Below are the FDA storage and preparation guidelines for various types of food when cooked over direct heat:
- Red meats and pork: Cook until the center reaches 160°F. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Chicken: Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F. Chicken can only be stored in the refrigerator for up to a few days, and is one of the fastest meats to spoil.
- Fish: If not explicitly sushi-grade, cook to an internal temperature of 145°F. Fish can be stored up to 3 days in a refrigerator.
- Eggs: Cook until no longer runny. Raw eggs in their shells can usually last around 4 weeks in the refrigerator. To test if an egg is spoiled, simply put it into a deep bowl of water. If it floats, it’s gone bad and the bacterial gases have made it buoyant.
- Dairy products: There are many different types of dairy products. As a general rule of thumb, consume by the best-by date. Toss it out if there is a strong sour smell, or if there are any visible signs of discoloration or mold.
- Fresh vegetables: Wash all fresh vegetables and fruits thoroughly before use. Do not consume if strongly discolored or rotting. However, you likely won’t get serious food poisoning from expired vegetables or fruits. Although some can be left on your countertop, most fruits and vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator.
Cross Contamination occurs when one food is unintentionally mixed with another. For instance, if you are cutting meat on a cutting board and then cut vegetables on that same board, you run the risk of contaminating your vegetables. This may mean that although you’ve properly cooked your meat, the juices on your vegetables could still make you sick.
To avoid cross-contamination, always wash your knives and cutting boards when preparing different types of food. Store different foods separately, and clean any spilled juices immediately. Doing so will increase your food safety, and reduce the likelihood of any illnesses.
1d) Discuss with your counselor food allergies, food intolerance, and food-related illnesses and diseases. Explain why someone who handles or prepares food needs to be aware of these concerns.
Food allergies can be deadly, and will often cause swelling in the victim’s extremities or airways which could result in suffocation. Just a small amount of the allergen can lead to a severe reaction, so exercise extreme caution when cooking for people with allergies. Read food labels, separate ingredients, and avoid cross-contaminating food.
Food intolerances are less severe than allergies, but can still cause significant discomfort and irritation. Intolerances occur when an individual cannot properly digest the food. Common intolerances include lactose and gluten (mainly found in dairy and wheat). If an individual with an intolerance consumes these foods, they will likely experience bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, headaches, or itching.
Some of the most common food-related diseases are E. coli and botulism. These diseases occur in foods that have been kept for too long, or in conditions that are too warm. They are caused by the growth of bacteria. Symptoms include cramps, fevers, vomiting, and pain, but will differ based on the type of disease that one contracts. To avoid food-related diseases:
- Avoid consuming raw or undercooked foods, especially meats.
- wash your hands before eating or preparing food.
- Avoid consuming food from damaged packaging.
- Avoid drinking unclean water, or water that has been sitting for more than a few days.
- Wash all produce before consumption.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
One of the most serious symptoms of food-related illnesses is dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes if you do contract a food-related illness, and don’t be afraid to seek medical attention if your condition fails to improve within 48 hours.
When preparing food, you’re entirely responsible for the safety of the people you’re feeding. Make sure that you’ve followed all food safety procedures, and check that those you’re cooking for don’t have allergies or intolerances. By mitigating possible risks, you’ll be able to keep your family safe and well-fed.
1e) Discuss with your counselor why reading food labels is important. Explain how to identify common allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish.
Food labels can provide useful information such as the food serving size, macronutrient information, and ingredients. By reading food labels, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re putting into your body, and be able to make healthier choices. Check out this quick video showing you how to understand and use food labels:
How to Read and Understand a Food Label (2:56)
In addition to giving you valuable information about a food’s nutritional value, labels can also be helpful when preparing food for an individual with allergies and can identify possible allergens. Before cooking for a group, be sure to ask for each member’s dietary preferences, as well as if they have any allergies.
The allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and shellfish cause around 90% of all food allergies in the US. The bottom of most food labels provide an allergy warning for common allergens that can cause a reaction. By reading food labels, you’ll reduce your chances of triggering an allergy and become a more informed consumer.
Do the following:
2a) Using the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model, give five examples for EACH of the following food groups, the recommended number of daily servings, and the recommended serving size:
Watch this quick (3:02) video to get a better understanding of MyPlate dietary guidelines:
- Fruits: Examples of fruits include apples, pears, bananas, strawberries, grapes. For boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 18, it’s recommended that you consume 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruits per day. This is usually done in three servings that are each 1/2 cup. A single banana or apple is roughly equal to one cup of fruit.
- Vegetables: Examples of vegetables include broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, peas, and celery. You should eat as wide a variety of vegetable colors as possible. For boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 18, it’s recommended to consume 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. About 12 baby carrots, one ear of corn, or three spears of broccoli will equal a cup of vegetables.
- Grains: Examples of grains include rice, breads, oatmeal, tortillas, or quinoa. It’s recommended that boys and girls between 14 and 18 years old consume 6 and 8 ounces of grains per day, respectively. An ounce of grains can take the form of a regular slice of bread, five whole wheat crackers, or one packet of oatmeal.
- Proteins: Examples of proteins include meats, poultry, eggs, nuts, and beans. It’s recommended that girls ages 14-18 consume 5 ounces of proteins per day, whereas boys 14-18 consume 6 1/2 ounces of proteins per day. An ounce of protein can take the form of a small chicken breast, one can of tuna, or one cup of lentil soup.
- Dairy: Examples of foods containing dairy include milk, yogurt, cheese, soy milk, and creams. It’s recommended that both boys and girls 14-18 years old consume 3 cups of dairy. There’s actually been some recent research done that indicates people shouldn’t be consuming too much dairy. Do your own research, and avoid consuming dairy that’s high in saturated fats and sugars.
2b) Explain why you should limit your intake of oils and sugars.
Sugars and oils are high in calories but provide little nutritional value. You should limit your consumption of these types of foods, as overconsumption of sugar is linked to fast weight gain and obesity. Moreover, excessive caloric, carb, and sugar consumption could eventually lead to type 2 diabetes, which causes one’s body to function incorrectly.
Important note on diabetes – There are actually 2 main types of diabetes, types 1 and 2.
While type 2 diabetes is often linked to insufficient exercise, unhealthy habits (excessive carbs, sugars, and fats) and genetics, type 1 diabetes can occur in individuals leading even the most healthy lifestyles. In fact, many scouts across the US have type 1 diabetes through no fault of their own.
First aid: If you know someone with type 1 diabetes and they begin to feel faint or say they have low blood sugar, ensure they eat or drink something with fast action sugar. The best options are fruit juices or honey — but hard candy (not chocolate) or other sweet things can work in a pinch.
Finally, always remember to have compassion and help others. One day, it might be you or me who finds themselves with a health challenge, so keep on doing your best to act with kindness and support the people around you!
Saturated-fat oils are linked to negative health conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure. By overconsuming sugars, oils, and fats, over time your arteries will begin to clog, and you’ll be faced with serious health problems.
Since your body tends to crave the foods that you eat often, avoid binging on sugary or fatty foods. Don’t let yourself get accustomed to eating sugary or oily foods, and you’ll be able to more easily maintain a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
2c) Determine your daily level of activity and your caloric need based on your activity level. Then, based on the MyPlate food guide, discuss with your counselor an appropriate meal plan for yourself for one day.
With your parent’s permission, input your weight, age, height, and physical activity information into Freedieting.com’s calorie calculator (no login required). The results will first show you your body’s daily recommended caloric needs.
Right below your results should be a section that says, “See meal plans for.” Click that, and you’ll find appropriate 1-day meal plans and foods for your recommended caloric intake. You can also take the number representing your daily caloric needs and Google “(your number) calorie 1 day meal plans” to find other useful meal recommendations.
2d) Discuss your current eating habits with your counselor and what you can do to eat healthier, based on the MyPlate food guide.
I don’t know you personally, but I’m guessing that you eat more sugar than you should. Don’t worry, I do too :P. For this requirement, think through the foods that you eat regularly for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Watch out for the sugars, fats, and artificial ingredients that you might be eating too much of.
For most scouts, a healthier diet would likely mean eating more fruits and vegetables. Also, eating fewer carbs and sugars, and more plant-based proteins will generally lead to better overall health. In the next section, we’ll be discussing the components that make up your food, as well as the types of ingredients you should limit or avoid eating.
2e) Discuss the following food label terms: calorie, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate, dietary fiber, sugar, protein. Explain how to calculate total carbohydrates and nutritional values for two servings, based on the serving size specified on the label.
I’ve rearranged the order of terms to make these concepts easier to understand. Don’t worry, they’re all there! Read through each of the points first, and then fill out your merit badge worksheet. I promise you’ll learn more this way. 🙂
- Calorie: A calorie is a unit measuring how much energy an amount of food will provide to your body. Almost all food contains calories. On a food label, the calories listed indicate how many calories you’ll be eating in one serving. Scientifically speaking, a calorie is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1°C.
- Fat: Lipids/fats are one of the three basic macronutrients (Fats, carbs, and proteins) and play a necessary role in maintaining a healthy diet. However, consuming fats too often can lead to obesity along with other health problems. Eat fewer fatty foods, as lipids contain more calories per gram than either proteins or carbs. We’ll be talking more about fats in just a bit.
- Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates (also called carbs) are also one of your body’s three essential macronutrients, and can be found in sugars, starches, and fibers. Most people consume carbs as their main source of fuel. Common sources of carbohydrates include breads, vegetables, grains, and whole fruits.
However, not all carbs are created equal. There are two types of carbohydrates: refined (also called simple) carbs and whole (also called complex) carbs. Whole carbs are good for your body and include unprocessed foods like vegetables, brown rice, and whole grains.
On the other hand, refined carbs are bad for you. Filled with added sugars and missing essential vitamins, bad carbs are often cheaper but provide little nutritional value. Examples of bad carbs include sodas, pastries, ice cream, as well as most junk foods you’d find in the supermarket.
- Protein: Protein is the third and final macronutrient that makes up a balanced diet. Your body uses proteins to repair body tissue and build muscle. Your proteins also release enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals that support a healthy lifestyle.
By eating foods that are rich in proteins, you’ll be able to repair your body and build muscle after a long day of Scouting activities. The highest-quality proteins come from lean food sources such as fish, poultry, beans, and plants.
Consuming processed protein sources such as bacon, sausages, and cheap red meats can increase your chances of heart disease. To choose the best sources of protein, look for foods that are low in fats and high in micronutrients and fiber.
- Cholesterol: The next few sections are all about fat. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that produces vitamin D, hormones, and other helpful substances in your body. However, eating fatty foods can cause high cholesterol which will lead to artery blockages and other serious medical issues.
You have two different types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. This stands for high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein. What you need to remember is that HDL is good, while LDL causes artery blockages and is bad.
Fatty foods like eggs, beans, avocados, and fish are high in HDLs and good sources of fat to consume. However, foods like butter, animal fats, and pastries are high in LDLs, and should be avoided. We’ll be going into more detail on different types of fats in just a bit.
- Saturated fat: Saturated fats are one of the worst types of fats to consume. Overconsumption of saturated fats has been linked to increased cholesterol, higher risks of cancer, and heart disease. Some foods that are high in saturated fat include whole milk and fatty cuts of red meat.
- Trans fat: Try to avoid consuming trans fats. Not only do trans fats increase your LDL cholesterol, they also lower your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. This can greatly increase your risk of heart disease.
Trans fats have become less common after the FDA proposed banning these fats in processed foods. However, be careful of frozen foods, as well as fast foods and french fries, as these have been found to contain trans fats along with other unhealthy fats.
- Dietary Fiber: Fiber helps you poooop! 🙂 Just making sure you were still paying attention. But seriously, dietary fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. By consuming fiber daily, you’ll have regular bowel movements. This, in turn, will reduce your risk of colon cancer and support healthy cholesterol levels.
- Sodium: Sodium is mainly found in salt, and is a necessary part of your daily diet. However, consuming too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. Try to consume your dietary recommendation of sodium, and avoid processed foods as they often contain more salts and sugars.
- Sugar: Don’t hate me for saying this, but sugar is really bad for you. Seriously. While sugars can be found naturally in most foods, much of what we eat today also contains large amounts of added sugars.
The problem with sugars is that they’re high in calories but provide no additional nutrients. Along with making you fat, consuming sugars too often can lower your overall energy. Over time, this could lead more serious health conditions that lower your quality of life.
Explain how to calculate total carbohydrates and nutritional values for two servings, based on the serving size specified on the label.
Here’s the food label from a box of pasta in my cabinet.
- The serving size, listed at the top of the box, says that one serving equals 56 grams.
- The total carbohydrates per serving are listed below sodium and above protein. There are 42 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
- On the far right-hand side of the total carbohydrate section, the food label says that 42 g of carbohydrates is 15% of the total carbs you should consume each day.
- If you decide to eat two servings, multiply all of the nutritional values by two.
- In two servings, your total carbohydrates would be 84 grams and represent 30% of your daily carb intake.
Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of the Cooking Merit Badge!
Wow, we just made it to 6000 words! Great work :). You definitely deserve a break at this point; give yourself a pat on the back!
Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Cooking merit badge (Requirements 3-7) click here.
Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here. PS: The article also links to my ultimate badge guides that’ll help you to answer your merit badge worksheets!