LIVINGSTON — Ian Hall, 11, piled his homemade pizza high with cheese and vegetables, and patiently waited for the delicacy to cook in the small toaster oven provided.

Ian and his siblings, Brendan Hall, 6, and Chloe Hall, 6, spent much of Friday morning learning different ways to eat healthfully during an event sponsored by the South Branch of the Livingston Parish Library. Their pizza creation was a special treat, one they got to make with fresh ingredients at the end of the program.

“I learned a lot about the food groups, and the different ways they help out our bodies, and how different foods can collide in our bodies,” Ian said.

The Halls, who have been traveling around the country in a recreational vehicle since late October, attended the event.

“When we have time, we always check into the local library to see what books they have and what programs they offer,” Ian’s mother, Joanne Hall, said.

“I was a teacher, so anything that’s educational, I jump for,” she said.

The program was also part of the Halls’ way of starting the New Year right, and making sure they make healthful choices when it comes to providing meals for their three children.

“We’re as health conscious as we can be, and we’re trying to do even better,” Hall said. “If we plan our meals ahead of time, we could do much better.”

Hall said they made sure to stop in Louisiana during their trip around the country to indulge in the local cuisine.

“That’s why we came to Louisiana,” Hall said.

An added bonus is that Hall’s youngest child wants to be a chef one day, she said. Hall said the program was just one step in helping her children understand the importance of cooking fresh food.

“We are lucky that our kids like fruits and vegetables,” their father, Steve Hall, said.

While the youths learned a thing or two about preparing healthful meals, Joanne Hall said she learned that instead of the food pyramid, the USDA now uses a plate to highlight the different food groups when teaching people about the importance of eating a balanced diet.

“This makes a lot more sense,” Joanne Hall said about the food plate. “It’s exposing the kids to something simple.”

“It’s good to see that half of the plate is fruits and vegetables,” Steve Hall said.

The website shows each of the food groups, said Tammy Mulhearn, head of youth services for the Livingston Parish Library.

Before putting their cooking skills to work, Mulhearn talked with the youths about the different food groups and what each provides for their bodies.

“The most important thing is for them to look at the way their plate is laid out,” Mulhearn said.

At least half of the plate should contain fruits and vegetables, while 1/4 should contain protein and 1/4 whole-grain foods, she said.

“You don’t need to eat them all in one meal as long as they spread it out over the day,” Mulhearn said.

For healthful eating tips, log on to