What image comes to mind when you think about healthy eating? If you’re like me, you see a plate full of vegetables and maybe a bland chicken breast. What if there was a way to reprogram your brain – as well as your shopping list and eating habits – so that healthy meal planning sparks creativity to spice up recipes?
Sabrosa Vida is a chef-led cooking and nutrition program offered to the community by the El Paso Diabetes Center, in partnership with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Living priority area.
The program was piloted by the Diabetes Center in 2019 and I am delighted to report that, based on feedback from the first cohort of participants, 10 new recipes and a new module on international cuisine have been developed and new classes have already started. There is still time to register for the remaining courses, but places are limited.
“What we’ve learned from our pilot program is that people don’t need help finding healthy ways to cook the staple foods that most El Paso residents eat,” said Sandra Gonzalez, executive director of the El Paso Center for Diabetes. “They wanted to learn how to cook different types of cuisine, as well as tips on meal planning.”
With the help of registered dietitian and chef Dr. Sarah Ruiz, founder of Sun City Dietitians, the five-week Sabrosa Vida program now includes five lessons: Introduction to cooking and carbohydrates, Learn to love your vegetables, Vary your proteins, Small Desserts and international cuisine. Each lesson consists of a nutrition education component with information on how to read labels, food safety, portion control and goal setting.
“We use local, seasonal ingredients — this has the added benefit of making meals delicious and affordable at around $2-3 per serving,” Ruiz said. “What we found was that learning how to substitute healthier ingredients in meals helped participants unleash their creativity in the pantry and kitchen and use what they learned to make delicious meals. ‘other healthy meals.’
During each lesson, a chef will demonstrate how to prepare the menu item for that lesson. Then the fun begins. Participants prepare the dish themselves, getting creative in substituting ingredients from the lesson according to their personal tastes.
“One of our new recipes is Pad Thai, which uses tofu, a healthy protein substitute,” Ruiz said. “I’m not surprised to hear that a participant used this lesson to make tofu tacos. Tofu is a great protein substitute that, once you learn how to make it, adapts and absorbs the flavors of your dressing. Participants will discover that once you fill your pantry with some of the ingredients in our recipes, they can be used in many different and creative ways.
Additionally, you can find helpful videos, recipes, and tips at Diabetes Now What? website. There are videos for healthy snacking, ingredient substitution, a shopping guide for diabetic-friendly shopping, and recipes like delicious mushroom posole. Go to epdiabetes.org/now-what/ to learn more.
Diabetes and obesity are major factors in a variety of other chronic diseases nationally and particularly in our region. As part of the Healthy Eating initiative, the Health Foundation focuses on educational programs, such as nutrition and cooking classes like Sabrosa Vida, that influence behaviors in selecting, preparing, cooking and eating healthy.
If you would like to register for Sabrosa Vida classes, go to epdiabetes.org or call 915-532-6280. Classes are free and accessible to all adults.
Jana Renner is a senior program officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. She can be reached at 915-218-2616 and [email protected]