Nanticoke promotes healthy cooking

By Lynn R. Parks

Pyrita Robinson is overweight. The Delmar woman has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, a condition that in many cases leads to diabetes.

Robinson knows that she can make a difference in her health. "I have a chance to turn this around by eating correctly and exercising," she said.

But "it's hard to know how to eat right," she added. Fresh vegetables are often too expensive for her budget, she said. And with a restriction on the amount of salt that she eats as well as the amount of sugar, "I've got to find some way to make food taste good," she said.

Robinson was one of about 30 people who attended a cooking demonstration held Monday night as part of the Nanticoke Health Services Diabetes Support Group. George Turner, executive chef at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, talked about learning to think of food not just as something that we poke in our mouths, but as something that should make us feel good and give us energy.

He then prepared Cranberry Chili Chicken, a sweet and savory dish that's low in carbohydrates. Also available for participants to taste were Creamy Ranch Coleslaw, prepared with broccoli instead of cabbage, Creamy Lime Mousse, based on sugar-free gelatin, and Squash Apple Bake. That last dish "calls for cinnamon," Turner told the class. "But if you're going to use cinnamon, you have got to use nutmeg and vanilla. There are no rules in the kitchen when it comes to seasoning, unless it's something that you're not supposed to have. Mix and blend as you please."

Turner made a point of saying that in all of the ingredients that he had spread out on the table, there was no salt, over-consumption of which has been linked with high blood pressure. "It's hard to break away from salt," he said. "Your palate is used to it. But I tell you that if you break away, you will begin to taste the wonderful flavors of good food."

Turner himself was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. The medicine that the doctor put him on made him feel bad. "I had to make a turnaround," he told the class. A religious man, he heard God telling him, "Physician, heal thyself," he said. "That made me start to look at what I was putting in my mouth. And I began to eat and cook to live."

Since then, Turner has lost more than 20 pounds. He is still on blood pressure medicine, but takes a dose of 5 milligrams per day instead of the 100 milligrams that he was on.

"I have the choice," he said. "I make the decisions. Am I going to have bacon and eggs for breakfast? Or a big bowl of oatmeal? I'm going to get full either way, so I should eat what's good for my body."

As far as making food taste good, Turner had a few suggestions: Use plenty of garlic and onion, he said. "You never can put too much onion in," he said, sprinkling grated onion of chicken breasts. And use herbs, fresh if you can find them, dried if you can't.

Kay and David Aanderud of Seaford attended the cooking class. They both have elevated sugar levels and Kay was looking for some tips on foods that she can fix.

"Any time that I need education, I go and get it," she said. "I think that I'm doing the right things. But I want to make sure."

At the end of the class, Kay said that she had new inspiration. "This has made me really want to cook healthy," she said.

Robinson, who took notes throughout the class, said that she was pleased that the food that Turner fixed for the class was so tasty. "I'm going to go home and try out what he said," she said. "I will try, even though I'm not a cook."

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