Healthier Habits: Cooking Class Teaches Community How to Prepare Nutritious Meals
A nutritious diet can boost health in amazing ways. You might lower your weight, blood pressure and risk of diabetes, for starters. But what if healthy ingredients and cooking techniques are foreign to you?
Good nutrition shouldn’t be complicated or stressful.
CHI Health Mercy Corning has been offering free monthly health-focused cooking classes at our wellness center since the spring of 2014.
During each class, we make nutritious meals and snacks and sample them together. The recipes emphasize foods that are largely under-consumed, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins as well as vegetarian options. Participants are sent home with recipes that include nutrition calculations. They also periodically receive free samples and incentives such as measuring spoons and whole grain pasta and oat bran samples.
Making good nutrition accessible is important for a community’s overall health.
Our cooking class is open to the public and serves women and men of all ages. We have had participants from 5 to 90 years of age. People of all skill levels and abilities are welcome to attend. All ingredients used in our recipes can be found at our local grocery store so nothing is out of reach.
We’ve found that simply being exposed to healthy foods and cooking techniques works wonders.
Our surveys have shown that participants are more likely to try new recipes after they have been given the opportunity to watch them being made — and sample the end result. They are also more likely to cook with fruits, vegetables, beans, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and whole grains if recipes focus on these nutritious ingredients.
Often, change happens one person and one meal at a time.
I had two participants in particular see me for specific nutrition counseling because they wanted to improve their health. They took the information and changed their own lives through improved nutrition, exercise and participation in the cooking classes — and they made the recipes at home often. These two participants dramatically improved their health through lifestyle changes and gained confidence which was evident with their brighter smiles.
I started this project on my own with the support and permission of my supervisor and peers and feel proud of how far it has come. Each month, I get to share my passion of nutrition by cooking new and unique recipes with enthusiastic participants. It’s rewarding to know that some healthy changes are starting here.
Check out these recipes as great options to incorporate healthy foods into your mealtimes!
Loaded Turkey Burgers
1 pound lean ground turkey
2 Tablespoons finely diced olives (kalamata preferred)
2 Tablespoons finely diced sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup packed spinach, finely chopped
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
- Add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl and mix until combined. Don’t over-mix or your burgers will be tough.
- Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat and add burgers. Put a lid on the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until done. Alternatively, cook on a grill until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- Add a slice of cheese to each burger and serve on a thin bun.
- Serves 4.Nutrition 286 kcal, 7 g carbohydrate, 28 g protein, 16 g fat, 511 mg sodium
Blueberry Superfood Smoothie
1 cup frozen blueberries
½ ripe avocado
¼ cup vanilla protein powder
2/3 cup frozen leaf spinach or 1 cup fresh
1-2 cups milk, any kind (start with 1 cup and add more if needed to blend)
½ – 1 tablespoon honey, brown sugar, or 2 packets sweetner (or less based on preference)
- Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until light and fluffy. Serves 1-2.
Nutrition (1/2 recipe): 197 calories, 25 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, 14 g protein, 103 mg sodium
Cookie Dough Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dry oatmeal
¼ cup pure maple syrup or honey (Add up to 2 more TBSP if needed)
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Place beans in food processor.
- Add oats, pure maple syrup, peanut butter, baking soda and vanilla.
- Process until smooth.
- Scrape into a bowl and stir in chocolate chips. Enjoy!
- Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Use as a dip for fruit or graham crackers or eat straight off a spoon.
Living Our Mission
What if a trip to the kitchen could benefit your health as much as a stop at the medicine cabinet?
Nutrition plays a vital role in keeping people healthy and helping them improve such chronic and widespread conditions as heart disease and diabetes, among others.
CHI Health’s mission to create healthier communities includes the essential tool of education, and that includes nutrition education. This free cooking class, held at CHI Health Mercy Corning and which is open to all, aligns with this effort to create healthier communities.
- The cooking class serves 6-15 participants each month.
- Our average attendance is 10-12 and there are repeat participants as well as new participants each session.
- If participants go home and make the recipes for their families and friends, the reach is much greater. Recipes are also frequently shared with friends.
Megan King is the supervisor of food and nutrition services and registered dietitian at CHI Mercy Corning in Corning, IA. She supervises the food and nutrition department, works with inpatients and provides outpatient counseling. She also does several community nutrition outreach activities, including a monthly cooking class. Megan is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in dietetics. Megan’s personal interests include cooking, walking, hiking, reading (both professional literature and leisure), bible studies and spending as much time as possible with her baby boy and husband.