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“Power of Food” event educates the public on nutrition

By Olivia Fledderman, Contributor

A large crowd gathered for a nutrition education program which was hosted by Margaret Mary Health Nutritional Services Department. The event titled “Power of Food” was held during the evening of Thursday, June 6 at Third Place.

It began with an information session conducted by five registered dietitians from Margaret Mary Health, which was followed by a food-tasting opportunity and concluded with a chance for individuals to speak one-on-one with the dietitians and ask any questions they may have had.

MMH Nutrition Services Manager Adrienne Found, RD, began the evening by welcoming everyone and thanking them for coming, and then she turned the attention over to her fellow registered dietitians who discussed several different topics. The main topics which the registered dietitians spoke about were vegetable purchasing, preparing and consumption, general food safety procedures, and fiber consumption and its benefits.

Some tips, which were given regarding purchasing vegetables, were to make a grocery list prior to going shopping, and specifically buy vegetables which you know you will use.

Sarah Heffron, RD, also suggested that individuals clean off their kitchen counters prior to going grocery shopping that way once they get home from the store, the experience isn't so overwhelming. A clean kitchen space also makes it simpler to wash produce upon returning home, and then produce can be prepped right away.

Heffron explained prepping vegetables helps to increase the likelihood a person will eat them as it also saves time later on in the week.

A tip that was stressed throughout the program by several of the registered dietitians, was to be sure to use see-through containers, such as glass, for storage of foods, as it will make it very easy to see what you have in your refrigerator to eat.

Heffron ended her discussion by explaining, “Phytochemicals, which come from many vegetables, are great for fighting chronic diseases in general. They function as antioxidants, work to boost the immune system, and so much more.”

Kathy Cooley, RD, then took the microphone and expanded on Heffron's discussion. She spoke a bit about how to cook vegetables, and she noted that some methods of cooking, such as roasting, preserves more nutrients and adds more flavor than other methods, such as boiling. However, there are many other options of how to cook vegetables besides just the two mentioned.

Cooley, stated, “There's so many vegetables out there that are just waiting for you to love them; even if, that means cooking them another way.”

From this point, the presentation transferred to the topic of food safety, which was led by Christy Minges, RD. Minges stressed the importance of having leftovers put away in the fridge or freezer within the appropriate time limits.

In general, leftovers should be put away within two hours of being cooked; however, if the food is being held at a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, such as at an outdoor picnic, leftovers should be put away within one hour. In a refrigerator or freezer, food should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the range between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is referred to as the temperature danger zone, which is where bacteria is most capable of growing. It is also important to eat leftovers within an appropriate amount of time, which in general is two to three days for meats and three to four days for all other foods, and leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melissa Bischoff, RD concluded the information session with a discussion on fiber. She explained that bowl meals, which were enjoyed by the guests later in the evening, are “full of a variety of foods, are quick and easy to prepare, and they are tasty and adaptable which makes them suitable for a family.”

She also added bowl meals provide a decent amount of fiber to one's diet, which is helpful in controlling blood sugar, lowering LDL cholesterol and maintaining adequate gastrointestinal system function.

In regards to fiber, there is soluble and insoluble fiber, which are both very necessary in the diet. Bischoff explained soluble fiber comes from sources such as beans, oats, fruits, and vegetables, and it helps to control blood sugar and lower LDL cholesterol. On the other hand, insoluble fiber is found in sources such as whole grains, and wheat bran, and it aids in gastrointestinal system function.

The information session was followed by a food tasting of a bowl meal which included, brown rice, roasted onions, roasted bell peppers, roasted zucchini, chickpeas, and a variety of fresh herbs, seeds, and sauces to top the creations.

Guests were encouraged to construct their own bowl according to their preferences while also being open to trying new things. The meal was complimented with pineapple, mint infused water and strawberry rhubarb crisp.