March is National Nutrition Month®

National Nutrition Month® - 2014

“National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.  “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” is the theme this year.  Consumer research confirms that taste tops nutrition as the main reason why one food is purchased over another.  While social, emotional and health factors also plays a role, the foods people enjoy are likely the ones they eat the most.   The focus is how one can combine taste and nutrition to create healthy meals that follow the Dietary Guidelines recommendations.”

I just got back from the “Fun & fit as a Family” event as part of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  The event brought together celebrity chefs, culinary personalities and health professionals for interactive learning all surrounded by Jungle Island’s natural environment (perfect South Florida winter afternoon).  While they didn’t plan for it to coincide with National Nutrition Month’s® theme this year, the event was exactly that – providing food that was not only healthy but tasty.  Baptist Health was there giving out various samples of fruits and vegetables to help promote getting “5 a day”.  Barilla was passing out a pasta that was prepared with an avocado/cilantro sauce and black beans – hmmm, who knew eating healthy could taste so good? 

I spent the majority of my time waiting in line to see the celebrity chefs in the “Kidz Kitchen” area.  It was interesting to hear the conversations as people waited to see what the chefs were going to prepare.   For me, I went into each presentation hoping that I could learn something from them – what is it that they’re passionate about and are promoting from their celebrity status.  I must preface this by saying I do not know watch the Food Network and my assessment is based solely on today’s presentations.

Aarón Sánchez – His overall presentation was actually boring and he kept telling jokes that weren’t funny.  Not to mention it was supposed to be a “Kidz Kitchen” but he didn’t involve the kids at all.  Having said that, the food he prepared smelled really good and were both recipes he learned from his abuela.  It wasn’t until the person monitoring the time waived for Aarón to wrap it up did I get what he was all about (because again his jokes were not funny).  He started to say what changed everything for him was when he became a dad.  He said that it changes your life automatically and that there was a shift in his core.  He said that he has a deeper purpose in life and that’s to provide for his kids and be an example for them.  He challenged the crowd to do the same.  “The food that you provide needs to be healthy and flavorful.   Just keep doing it, they’ll eat it.  Stay strong, they’re going to test you.”   I tell parents this all the time – don’t be a short order cook.  You make one meal and that’s what everyone is eating.  They don’t get something special later.  What’s there is what’s for dinner.  (Make sure that something on the plate is something that they like so they’ll have a go to food).  Even though Aarón didn’t bring the kids up to help him prepare the food, he always had them in mind with the food that he was preparing – making food that nourishes the body and the soul.

Robert Irvine – What a character!  Right from the start he had everyone stand up and get on their feet.  If you thought you were going to sit back and just watch, wrong.  And not only that, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer.  If you were trying to hide and just stay seated, he was going to find you!   He was fun, full of energy and completely interactive with the crowd.  He definitely had your attention!  Not only was he cooking food that was healthy and tasty he was doing exercise in between while things were marinating/cooking.  At one point we were doing squats in the crowd and the next minute he was up on the cooking area doing push-ups, one-legged at that!  Beyond all the hoop la that was going on he did have a nutrition message to pass on.  He asked the crowd if they liked beans.  The one lucky gentleman that answered no was immediately called up on stage (he should’ve known that was coming).  Robert gave him just a plain bean to eat.  He then gave him a bean that he had prepared in the turkey chili that he was making.  He asked him if he’d consider eating beans now having had them prepared in a chili.  I didn’t hear the answer and it really doesn’t matter.  What Robert did is what we all need to do (and especially with kids).  If you don’t like something a certain way, try and prepare it in a different way or form of that food.  Not all people like beans I get it.  But maybe you’d consider eating beans if they were mixed in with something else.  The other day I did a lesson with the kids where I did exactly this and it just so happened I was trying to feed them beans.  First we made a black bean dip, so the beans were are all ground up.  I served the dip with a whole-wheat pita.  We also made a bean burger, where some of the beans were whole and some were mashed.  I also made a three-bean salad with black beans, green beans and edamame mixed together with a citrus vinaigrette.  And lastly I made a black-bean brownie.  I know, I know I can hear it now – why mess with a brownie?!  I did it simply to show the kids how versatile a black bean is!  The best part was that I had them prepare the brownies so they knew they were in there.  Almost no child wanted to try the brownies after they were done.  Again, I get it.  If I’m eating a brownie I don’t want it to be a bean brownie.  But remember I was trying to show the versatility of the bean.  I don’t force kids to eat food, but I do encourage them to at least try it and determine if they do or don’t like the food.  I’m happy to say that 75% of the kids did like the bean brownie.  The take home message:  think outside of the box.  Maybe you’re stuck in a rut and if you’re not finding pleasure in food because of the way it’s prepared, maybe you need to find a new way to prepare it.

Giada De Laurentiis  - The line to see Giada went on for what seemed to be forever.  I’m just glad my mom and I decided to line up a little early to be able to see her.  She is my mom’s favorite.  From the moment Giada stepped on stage holding a chimpanzee to the moment she began answering questions, she had the audience hanging on every word.  Here’s the question and answer that stuck out the most to me.  A lady in the audience asked her, “How do you cook food all day and still stay thin?”  Here was her response:  “I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything.”  She went on to say that moderation is the key and also that she does do yoga for exercise.  So it’s not just the food that you eat it but it’s how much of the food that you’re eating.  You shouldn’t be depriving yourself, but you also should be providing your body with food that nourishes it as well.  Giada went on to answer many more questions and even took a “selfie” with a little boy.  She was engaged with the kids and you could tell that she wanted the kids involved in making the food in the hopes that they’d want to eat it after. 

“Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” – is the theme this year of National Nutrition Month® and it was the theme all throughout the day at the “Fun & Fit as a Family” event.  The food you eat should have flavor AND at the same time provide nourishment that your body needs. 

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