As the smells of garlic and onion permeated the halls of the middle school, faculty popped their heads into the room the aroma was coming from to see what it was. The Food Bank’s Nutrition Education Manager Beatriz Bravo was cooking pineapple chicken fried rice to teach her students about grains.
By cooking with brown rice, a whole grain, using low-sodium chicken and pineapple in 100 percent fruit juice, the dish had a healthier spin to it. During the class, students learned all about the parts of a whole grain, how to identify whole grains by reading the nutrition label and what types of food were whole grains.
With three grandkids to care for, Maria, a nutrition education student, puts into practice what she learns at home. She has been introducing healthier meals to her grandkids – a 15, 14 and a 12-year-old.
“They didn’t hardly like eating. They were picky eaters. Since I have been cooking this food and using more healthy foods and stuff like that, I notice that they eat more and more. And I said ‘wow and I am not evening using salt’,” Maria said.
Though her grandkids like the healthier food, Maria needs to be sneaky in the kitchen sometimes, especially when her grandkids cook with her. She’ll blend garlic and onion, so her grandkids won’t identify the vegetables in their meal. Other times she’ll add other ingredients like spinach.
With high blood pressure and diabetes running in her family, Maria wants to do everything she can to prevent her grandkids from being at risk. From learning how to read the nutrition label, to learning about My Plate nutrition guidelines, to learning about lean proteins and much more, Maria is hoping to make dietary changes for her grandchildren that will last a lifetime.
“I don’t want my grandkids to have any health problems or anything. I want them to eat right, to have a healthier life and healthier body,” Maria said.
In addition to learning how to cook healthier, students also learn how to identify the unit price to help them shop on a budget. For Maria, staying on budget is vital. When an 18-wheeler hit her, Maria suffered neck injuries that have had lasting effects.
Though she receives disability benefits, with three growing kids to provide for, she turns to her local food pantry to get healthy food items to cook healthier at home.
For students, each class in the six-to-eight week series helps them make better choices at mealtimes. Even the last few minutes of the class that’s reserved for teaching students exercises to keep them active makes an impact.
The exercises keep Maria active enough to play and jump on the bed with her grandchildren.