Putting Healthy Eating Into Practice

Today we’re at the Omni Grove Park Inn for the first day of ASAP’s Healthy Eating in Practice conference. Physicians, community leaders, and healthcare professionals from across the country are here. They’re going to go to lectures, cooking classes, and farm field trips where they’ll meet experts and make new connections.

We spent the first morning of the three-day conference learning about the intersection of farms, food and health, as well as the evidence base for healthy eating. Now it’s time to put that knowledge into practice with a wholesome lunch. Everyone fills their plates with a healthy version of a school lunch taco bar.

ASAP worked with more than 20 local farms to source meals for the conference. Many of the farmers you’ve heard on Growing Local contributed fresh produce and meat, and their photos were displayed next to their dishes.

Donna Martin leads the lunch session about how school food works. She’s the director of the school nutrition program in Burke County, Georgia and former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As we enjoy our meal, she shares how her district has made food healthier and more affordable by using local ingredients.

Health care professionals have traveled from as far away as California and New York to be here this week and there’s no shortage of things to do. Some will go to an orchard to learn how nurses can engage with healthy eating practices. Others will focus on education by visiting a school garden or traveling to a local college to learn about developing nutrition skills in adolescents and young adults.

These themes are also explored in the conference center though cooking classes. “The Secrets of Kid-Friendly Meals” is a hands-on class focuses on childhood nutrition. Katherine Valencia Caro, a certified physician assistant with the Duke Children’s Healthy Lifestyles Program, leads the program with Alexis Young, the chef for the Child Care Center of the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville.

“The main thing to talk about with the secrets to kid-friendly meals is understanding what is normal for kids,” says Caro. “I think our focus is knowing that picky eating is totally normal. As providers we need to re-assure families that picky eating is a normal part of development and becoming independent, and that’s fine and they’ll grow out of it.”

Today’s chef, Alexis Young, has the daunting task of preparing fresh, healthy meals for infants to preschoolers at the childcare center. She makes vegetable and fruit purees for the littlest ones, and has some creative ideas for helping preschoolers explore nutritious foods. Today she’s making vegetarian meatballs that are full of quinoa and veggies.

“It’s something that they can pick up, hold, and eat,” says Young. “We roast vegetables for this particular recipe and most of the recipes that I do. Kids love roasted vegetables. If you’ve served them something that’s been steamed and they didn’t dig it, try roasting them. It does something to the texture. It allows it to be crispy on the outside, cooked on the inside, and I’ve had such a high success rate with kids eating roasted vegetables.”

The participants chop peppers and mushrooms, mix cooked quinoa with pre-roasted veggies, and roll little kid-sized meatballs. “I hope all of you are noticing as you’re mixing with your hands, you’re also experiencing the different sensory feelings and textures,” says Caro. “The kids will be doing the same!”

The conference also covered the relationship between food, equity, and health, nutrition policy on the national and local level, and practical ways to make healthy foods more accessible. Next week on Growing Local, we’ll delve into some of those topics as our coverage of ASAP’s Healthy Eating in Practice Conference continues. To learn more about the Healthy Eating in Practice conference, go to www.healthyeatinginpractice.org

Aired: September 24, 2018

Sign Up for Our Newsletters