The Plant-Based Mediterranean Wallet

The Mediterranean Wallet

Americans constantly correlate a healthy lifestyle to expensive foods. This is not always the case. Yes, fresh foods, like produce for example, are normally higher in price compared to canned foods, or foods with a longer shelf-life.

Studies have shown that adopting the Mediterranean Diet helps reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks, amongst other chronic health disparities. The lifestyle stresses the importance of plant-based meals. One major ingredient in the diet is olive oil. The introduction of olive oil into the diet has been determined, to aid in feeling fuller long or the feeling of satiety.

Studies have also shown that an increase in plant-based meals can lead to a decrease in food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to nutritional foods for at least some days or some meals for members of a household.

Researchers conducted a study to emphasize the use of simple, plant-based recipes and olive oil, following a Mediterranean diet pattern. A number of participants commented on how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was.  So, the study approached a local food bank about designing their study using food pantry items for the program’s recipes.

Most people, who attempt at putting together a nutritionally balanced menu for their family or household, spend the bulk of their budget on meats, poultry, and seafood. These items, specifically lower-fat versions, tend to be the most expensive items someone will see on their grocery store receipt. Low socioeconomic status families will normally purchase these items first, leaving little left in the budget for healthier fruits and vegetables.

The researcher on the study explained that if the focus of the shopper could be changed to eliminate foods that are not needed to improve health from the shopping list, a healthy diet can be more economical.  Certain foods that could be crossed off that grocery store list include meats, snacks, desserts, and carbonated beverages/sodas.

The first 6 weeks of the study consisted of cooking classes where instructors prepared quick and easy plant-based recipes that incorporated ingredients like olive oil, whole grain pasta, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. The participant’s progress was tracked for 6 months after the conclusion of the cooking program.

One particular benefit for those attending the 6 week cooking class was that they were provided with groceries that contained most of the ingredients discussed by the class facilitators. The chosen ingredients provided to the participants would allow them to make 3 of the discussed recipes for their family members.

Once the classes were over, the researchers collected grocery receipts throughout the remainder of the study. Analysis of these receipts showed a significant decrease in overall purchases of meats, carbonated beverages, desserts and snacks. This was particularly interesting to the research team as they never offered instruction to the participants to avoid buying these items.

The further review of the grocery receipts showed that each household enjoyed an increase in the total number of different fruits and vegetables consumed each month. Participants cut their food spending in more than half, saving nearly $40 per week. The study also found that the reliance on food pantries decreased as well, indicating a decrease in food insecurity.

The research team also found that the cooking program had unexpected health benefits as well. Almost one-half of the participants presented loss in weight. This was not an objective in the study but, raised a few eyebrows. The study also showed an overall decrease in BMI of the participants.

Overall, this study shows that a plant-based diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, not only contributes to an overall improvement in health and diet. The study also highlights how a plant-based diet can contribute to decreasing food insecurity in America.

Plant-Based Med Diet Can Be Easy On the Wallet

6-week Cooking Program on Plant-Based Recipes

plantbased diet

food inse

med dietmed diet cooking class

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Our Healthy Roadtrip Has Begun!

Roadtrippin’ With My Favorite Friends

Yesterday, Monday March 4th, was the launch of this semester’s Shack Neighborhood House nutrition education programming. Every semester and summer, the WVU Didactic Program in Dietetics implements a nutrition education program at the Shack Neighborhood House. The Shack is no stranger to this group of future Dietitians. The two organizations have been collaborating for years now. Over the summer we ran “Carrot Sticks”- a nutrition education program focusing on food culture, smoothies, and fruits/vegetables. In the fall, we ran a program called “Racing the Rainbow”- a nutrition education program that focused on different colors of the rainbow correlating to the different food groups.

All of our programs have a target population of youth, usually between the ages of K-5, or more specifically K-2. I’ve somewhat mastered a system as to how we organize each lesson plan within the programs.

Part 1- Nutrition education

–        MyPlate

–        Focus on a specific type of food (Example- berries, potatoes, avocados, etc.)

–        Focus on the specific benefits of our targeted food of discussion

Part 2- Snack incorporating the food(s) we’ve discussed

–        We make sure that the snack is interactive and they are required to make/build/construct it in an artistic nature

Part 3- Activity

–        We usually find crafts related to our lesson topic

–        I try to make sure that we find activities that the students can cognitively grasp, but also enjoy and learn from as well.

This week, we focused on the region of Oregon. And we discussed the benefits of potatoes but, focused more on the health benefits of berries. The undergraduates used a MyPlate visual as an aid to guide the students in questions, regarding different food groups.

Each week, I will put stickers on the region that we “drove” to on our healthy roadtrip across America.

“Our Healthy Roadtrip” will continue for 5 additional lessons (excluding March 25th because of WVU’s Spring Recess).  I took the liberty at creating a poster of the map of the U.S. to document all the different regions of the country, which the program will touch base on.

Only time will tell, if the Shack’s students start to really get into “Our Healthy Roadtrip” theme this Spring!

Shack Neighborhood House

RT

The location of our new nutrition education curriculum!

The location of “Our Healthy Roadtrip” program!

RTT

A Guatemalan Getaway

A Taste Around the World: A Guatemalan Getaway

So, for the ISPP Dietetic Interns final food culture lesson plan on the semester, we decided to go along with our Guatemalan theme and name our final Taste Around the World: A Guatemalan Getaway. This week, instead of focusing our nutrition education and food culture towards Mexican flavors, we decided to head a little more South.

Our nutrition education component of the program focused on the significance that fiber plays in the role of Guatemalan native’s diets and how it affects their health. We had on display a poster of the Guatemalan food guide compared to the US’s MyPlate. And boy, was there a difference! It was really interesting to see how many participants actually noticed the difference between each country’s food guide and how it impacted our healthy as well.

As the ISPP Dietetic Interns did last time, we developed and hosted this food culture nutrition education program. Not only did we develop and run the entire program, we came prepared this time. With funds from the Student Dietetic Association, we invested in culinary equipment like knives and cutting boards. Me, being the thrifty gal that I am, found a place that sold large amounts of 7 inch Santoku knives and small cutting boards…. The Dollar Tree. Who would’ve thought? After weeks of calling bulk culinary companies, I finally found what we were looking for. This way, participants could have their own “Taste Around the World” kitchen set. And we could add some consistency to the development phases of the program. Overall, I would say the program was another success and I will never forget that good deals can be in the last place you would expect.

Giving everyone a slice at knife skills

Giving everyone a slice at knife skills

Fiber-tastic!

Fiber-tastic!

Guatemalan Hot Chocolate!

Guatemalan Hot Chocolate!

ISPP Dietetic Interns always say "Safety First!"

ISPP Dietetic Interns always say “Safety First!”

Everyone loves vegetables!

Everyone loves vegetables!

So everyone can read our motto in the demo mirror!

So everyone can read our motto in the demo mirror!

Always brushing up on our culinary knife skills!

Always brushing up on our culinary knife skills!

Our salsa station!

Our salsa station!

Our festive table cloth to go with our theme!

Our festive table cloth to go with our theme!

The Baked Tamale Station! Yumm-O

The Baked Tamale Station! Yumm-O

The end product of our tamale adventure!

The end product of our tamale adventure!

The calm before the storm!

The calm before the storm!

ISPP Dietetic Internship

 

Our Healthy Roadtrip

Our Healthy Roadtrip

This past week, I had yet another Extended Community Action Team meeting. Within this meeting, I have 3 undergraduates on my Action Team. They each represent a different aspect of community nutrition off-campus in the Morgantown, WV surrounding area. One of those interns is responsible for community nutrition education at the Shack Neighborhood House. Since we instilled a rainbow nutrition curriculum last semester, I wanted to try something a little different.

I remembered a show that Rachel Ray hosted, where she would travel the country and try different foods and restaurants based on that region and she was on a budget. So, since the ISPP Dietetic Interns most recently were solely responsible for a successful food culture nutrition and culinary education class… I thought this could be like a food culture program but, only within the US. So, out came the new nutrition education curriculum called “Our Healthy Roadtrip”. Each week, for 6 weeks, students from the Human Nutrition & Foods department at West Virginia University will educate children in grades 3-5 on different food culture based on different regions of the country. Then, they will focus on one specific food and have a snack and interactive activity corresponding with the curriculum.  This new program starts on March 4th and will continue until mid-April. I think the students at the Shack Neighborhood House will really get a better sense of the country and what it has to offer, in regards to nutrition and food culture as a whole.

The location of our new nutrition education curriculum!

The location of our new nutrition education curriculum!

A poster I created that will be on display at the SNH for the remainder of the programming!

A poster I created that will be on display at the SNH for the remainder of the programming!

 

My Mini Kitchen Audit

A Mountaineer Mini Kitchen Audit

So, this past week was quite an eventful one at that for this WVU ISPP Dietetic Intern. I had the pleasure of administering a mini kitchen audit to ensure the WVU Agricultural Sciences Annex Test Kitchen had the tools, equipment, and utensils for an upcoming event that week. Initially, this kitchen audit was intended to be administered by our program’s graduate student, who is a professional chef. But, when the audit was abandoned, I stepped in to do just a brief audit. Our kitchen holds roughly 25 students and has 4 kitchen units. Within each unit, there are 2 sinks, 1 microwave, 1 stove, and holds 4-6 people. Each unit is really broken into 2 stations and has a set amount of kitchen tools within it. In my mini audit, I was just ensuring that we would have enough knives, cutting boards, and utensils to complete a program for that week (which you will read about soon).

The number one concern that I was aware of, when running the mini audit, is that the knives in our kitchen are really dull, which could cause potential serious injury to beginner cooks. I also noticed that there really wasn’t a standard list of equipment in the kitchen, as a whole or at each unit. This could potentially be the reason why kitchens become unorganized at times. Another red flag I observed was the poor quality of a first aid kit that the kitchen had. They kept the kit in a drawer, unorganized, nothing in one container, and I think the components of this “kit” were outdated towards up to 7 years ago. These things are really important when teaching nutrition education in a kitchen setting, especially with students who have never stepped foot in WVU’s Test Kitchen. Hopefully, these problems will be addressed before we run our next programming in the kitchen.

I definitely think that our program should require students to have training of some extent in “how to run a kitchen audit”. I think it would be beneficial for future use and educate students the importance of knowing what’s in your kitchen so, you can identify any gaps or holes for future programming.

http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/institute/lesson-clearinghouse/396-Kitchen-Audit.html