Everyday is a healthy eating day in the kitchen of the Greater Trail Community Centre.
So this week’s menu including today’s black bean soup with a spaghetti and meatballs entree, fits right into March being touted “Nutrition Month” by the Interior Health Authority (IHA).
“We balance our lunch specials and alternate our soups so the meals hit at least three of the four food groups each service,” said Geoff Tellier, chef instructor at Selkirk College’s food service worker program, located in the centre. “Seniors are our focus clientele so we make sure our meals are low sodium with no MSG,” he explained.
“And we make sure nutritional needs are met by using fresh produce and cooking something new each day.”
Small changes to diet can pay off big by reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and IHA’s nutrition month theme is “Simple Cook and Enjoy!”, which plays into Tellier’s lessons for students in his program.
“We talk about nutrition and do look at dietary concerns,” he said. “We look at what’s going to meet the daily requirements of each food group, even if it is simple like building a sandwich.
“Lettuce, sprouts and cheese between bread can incorporate everything into a single serving.”
Healthy cooking is easy, and it’s all about getting back to the basics, noted Jill Worboys, an IHA registered dietician, in a March newsletter.
“Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated,” said Worboys. “And people who cook meals from scratch eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”
In addition to providing the community with a healthy “from scratch” meal Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and Friday, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Tellier’s in-house catered events include trays of at least seven types of veggies and six seasonal fruit platters, along with the “goodies.”
“Basically, I am a home cook kind of person and I don’t get flamboyant,” he said. “It’s not my style, it’s more about the healthy food I grew up with.”
Another consideration the 17-year chef instructor takes into account when planning the program’s changing menu, is portion size.
Seniors tend to become overwhelmed if the plate is over laden with food, explained Tellier, adding that serving a size the person is willing to eat can help balance nutritional needs.
“And often the plate is garnished with fruit like a slice of kiwi,” he said. “Because that one slice is equal in vitamin C to a whole orange.”