Cooking Matters’ diabetes classes meet an increasing need

Everyone lives with diabetes these days. Of course, the 25.8 million Americans who are currently diagnosed with it experience the brunt of the disease. But everyone lives with it. Whether you’re genetically predisposed to it, have high blood pressure or even just watch what you eat, it’s all around you.

Choose My Plate is the new Food Pyramid

Choose My Plate is the new Food Pyramid

In a food system where the cheaper, highly concentrated high fructose corn syrup regularly replaces real sugar and enriched wheat-packed processed foods dominate the affordable grocery market, the influx of people living on low incomes with diabetes is no mere coincidence. So, in a society with disparities in access to healthy food options, we all must think before we eat and make the right choices, whether it’s to prevent diabetes, maintain our health, or provide for a diabetic loved one.

You’ve probably heard this mantra before: Keep a healthy weight, make smart food choices and be active every day. It’s pretty easy to say. But in communities with limited access to affordable fresh produce, the actual doing of those things is incredibly difficult. That is why Cooking Matters, a program of Solid Ground in partnership with Share Our Strength, has started to offer diabetes classes. The series is made up of six weekly classes and focuses on diabetes prevention and management through healthy choices about food and physical activity.

While this disease becomes more commonplace, it can still be a difficult thing to talk about, especially for those living on low incomes. Since access to healthy food is a tough issue in the first place, openly discussing the physical and emotional tolls that diabetics endure can be challenging. This type of discussion is encouraged in Week 1, where the information provided is also meant to complement the current curriculum taught in Cooking Matters for Adults classes.

This first series for Cooking Matters Seattle was held at the Sea Mar Community Health Center in Burien, a region in King County that typically sees a lot of families and individuals living on low incomes from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds.

“[Cultural diets] do play a big role in how we structure the class,” says Sandra Williams, Cooking Matters Program Coordinator at Solid Ground. “We try as best as we can to diversify a recipe. At the beginning of the series (Week 1), we will ask participants, ‘What are some things that you’d like to learn in class?’ ” she says, explaining that healthy versions of traditional recipes or ingredient substitutions can be planned out over the course of the class series. “Oftentimes people are vegetarian or have different beliefs. So if they’re Kosher, we make sure to note that and take that into account.”

As the first local Cooking Matters class focusing on diabetes-centric nutrition, Sandra says that attendance was at capacity. Having access to knowledgeable specialists may have been a factor. “In the diabetes class, we do require that the nutritionist is a registered dietician,” Sandra says. “Unlike our other adult, family and teen classes where we require volunteers to have some background in nutrition and cooking, but not a degree.”

If the goal is to expand these diabetes-focused classes to more regions, more often, then we’re on our way. Another series is due in the fall of 2014. But new class series are heavily dependent on word of mouth from previous program participants, volunteers and donors. “We teach healthy cooking, nutrition and how to prevent diseases,” says Sandra. “I feel like people gain a lot from the class, and yet we don’t have enough resources to offer the curriculum [more frequently].”

Please click here if you’d like to learn more about participating in, volunteering for or coordinating a Cooking Matters class. Can’t wait until fall? ChooseMyPlate.gov is a useful, free tool you can use to put together nutritious, preventative meals yourself.

Cooking Matters receives local in-kind donations from Charlie’s Produce and Whole Foods Market.

Advertisements

My Plate

Choose My Plate is the new Food Pyramid

Something exciting happened a few weeks ago. The USDA came out with a new food guide called My Plate. It’s great because it gives a good idea of how your plate should be divided up by the different food groups. I like that it’s so much easier to teach! A plate really makes sense to people, and I think it’s a really great model for how we should eat – especially with half of our plate filled with fruits and veggies. You can learn more at the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov. It’s a fun website to poke around to learn about the different food groups and the nutrients they provide. There are also some resources for estimating how many calories a person needs and how many calories are in certain foods. So check it out and have fun!

Apple Corps seeds nutrition & fitness

The Apple Corps 2010/2011!

Last week Solid Ground’s Apple Corps AmeriCorps team showcased its efforts to counter childhood obesity through nutrition and fitness education and activities.

The eight Apple Corps Members each discussed their work during their one-year term to provide school and community-based nutrition and fitness education and awareness.

Team Members are actively engaged in local neighborhoods hardest hit by the obesity epidemic. They teach in schools, create family community market nights, coordinate cooking classes, garden clubs and walking challenges, and use other tools and partnerships to effect change.

Lessons Apple Corps Member Jen Yogi learned in school

Team member Heidi Evans brought Cooking Matters classes to the public housing facilities she worked in on behalf of Solid Ground’s Partners in Caring program. As one class member wrote in her evaluation, the “classes increased my confidence that I can cook healthy meals.”

In addition to developing and providing programming, Apple Corps Members received training and support in how to manage their projects, many of which involved significant community partnerships, and applied an anti-racist analysis to their work.

“I tried to not privilege certain ways of speaking about nutrition,” Heidi said, “and to value what others bring and the important role of cultural food traditions.”

Apple Corps Members will wrap up their projects over the next month or so, with a new team forming at the end of the Summer! You can learn more about the Corps and donate to support it on the Apple Corps webpage.

Cooking Matters: Calcium

Editor’s note: Cooking Matters will regularly bring the nutritional expertise of Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program to our blog. We hope you enjoy their tips and recipes!

Collard greens, a great source of calcium!

I hope everyone enjoyed the fantastic Northwest weekend! I took a few great walks, including a trip to the local farmers market. I’m really excited about the upcoming produce season!

One of the great benefits of the abundance of greens we have in the Northwest is that many of them are packed with calcium. Many folks are lactose intolerant, and even people who can safely consume dairy often wonder how in the world they are going to take in enough dairy products to get their calcium.

No fear, there are options! One option is to use dairy substitutes such as soy milk instead of cow milk, because calcium is added to the soy milk so that it has the same amount as regular milk. But there are plenty of other options for getting the calcium needed for building and maintaining bones. Many plant products are actually quite good sources as are some animal products (like canned salmon, yum!).

Here are some nondairy sources of calcium:

  • Collard greens, 1 cup (357 mg)
  • Spinach, 1 cup (291 mg)
  • Soy beans, 1 cup (261 mg)
  • Canned salmon with bones, 3 oz (181 mg)
  • Calcium-set tofu, 3 oz (163 mg)
  • Oranges, 1 cup (72 mg)
  • Almonds, 1 oz (70 mg)
  • Fortified cereals (varies)

You can find more information and other sources here:

Adults should get between 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium a day, based on their sex and age. It’s important to incorporate calcium-rich foods into your diet to maintain bone health. See below for a Cooking Matters Recipe that’s a good (nondairy) source of calcium!

Pasta with Lima Beans and Collard Greens

By Chef Carole Wagner Greenwood in Washington, DC

Serves 12, 1 cup per serving

INGREDIENTS

1 – 13 oz package whole wheat pasta
1 – medium carrot
2 – cloves garlic
2 – medium onions
2 pounds (1 bunch) – collard greens
2 tablespoons – canola oil
½ cup – water
1 teaspoon – dried oregano
1 teaspoon – dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon – ground black pepper
3 – 15.5 oz cans lima beans

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.

2. While pasta is cooking, peel, rinse and dice carrot and onions. Peel and mince garlic.

3. Rinse collard greens – more than once if necessary to remove all grit, remove tough stems and chop coarsely.

4. Heat canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and sauté garlic, carrot, onion and greens until onions are soft.

5. Add water and spices, and cook until greens are tender.

6. Drain and rinse beans in colander. Add beans to the greens. If needed, add a little more water to make a sauce.

7. Toss greens and beans with cooked pasta and cook for 5 more minutes or until pasta is heated through.

Contains 150 mg Calcium per serving.

Operation Frontline in the news

The Fremocentrist blog ran a nice column about our Operation Frontline program, which helps folks who are living on low incomes get cooking skills and nutritional education so they can feed their families in a healthier way. Check it out! 

%d bloggers like this: