Healthier cooking comes to Franklin

Published 10:04 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The American Heart Association has been traveling to different cities to equip residents with the skills and information necessary to prepare healthy meals at home.

The Simple Cooking with Heart Mobile Kitchen Program has partnered with the YMCA to teach cooking classes with simple, flavorful and healthy meals that participants can easily replicate in their own homes.

“It’s great for them to try something here, and it’s OK to try something and not like it,” said American Heart Association cook Debra Brabson. “We are using things they would not normally use, and we dabble in spices, because spices can tend to be expensive.”

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The American Heart Association provides everyone in the class with enough food to make their meal, and they give their students enough food to go home and make the same dish.

Their sessions focus on being able to cook good meals with healthy alternatives rather than relying on salt and fats for flavor, and they challenge the students to make the meals exactly the same as they did in the class.

The biggest trick most of the participants learned was to use broth instead of water to cook food, because it adds flavor without having to add too much else to the food.

“I was really interested in what they were cooking and how it was different than how I cook my food at home,” said participant Barbara Lane. “The prep work and seasoning with broth was the most different.”

While the main purpose was to arm the participants with tricks on healthy eating, the class also taught them basic cooking skills to make their home meals even better. The chefs in the class gave them pointers on how to chop vegetables for more even cooking and how to manage food in their pans.

“I learned not to stir the food so much but to let it sit and brown,” Lane said.

Everyone in the class believed that they would keep up with the healthy eating habits because it was easier than they had previously thought, and it had the possibility of tasting just as good.

“I love salt, and I use a lot of it at home, but here we’ve been using different seasonings,” said Linda Murphy. “I’ve been learning to change my eating habits.”

The five-week course was enjoyable for the participants, because they received delicious, free meals and had the chance to bond and spend time with others while they cooked together.

“I think it’s nice that just one night a week they cook here,” Brabson said. “Sometimes they don’t leave their house often and they don’t have someone to talk to. Being a part of a group empowers them to try healthier options.”

As the program ends in Franklin, with their last class on Nov. 1, American Heart Association Community Impact Director MeShall Hills has gifted the students with all the supplies they need to recreate the meals.

Hills provided them with the pots, pans and other tools needed to cook the wide array of meals they cooked in class.

The American Heart Association hopes that the program will be able to come to Suffolk after seeing such success in other cities like Franklin.