Deon Freeman said he's been a "bad cook" for a while. But with his recent diabetes diagnosis, he is learning to cook better and healthier through a series of nutrition classes called Cooking Matters.
Monday night, Freeman was in charge of cooking the 100 percent whole wheat noodles while the other four class participants prepared a peanut butter sauce and the vegetables for an Asian noodles with peanut butter sauce dish.
During each class, the class prepares a dish to try each class while nutritionists and experts explain the best way to make the food while explaining the dish's nutrients.
Cooking Matters is funded by a grant, which Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina provided, that was awarded to United Christian Ministry of Abbeville County free medical clinic to identify health care and nutrition needs for the free clinic's patients. UCMAC partnered with Abbeville Area Medical Center and Clemson University to provide the evidence-based nutrition course.
Providing a hands-on educational experience, Cooking Matters helps people understand why eating healthy matters.
Two classes into the course, Freeman said he not only enjoys the classes but always learns something new. With the goal of keeping his diabetes in check, Freeman said he thinks the classes are helping him cut the sugar in his diet.
"That's helped a whole lot," he said.
Bernice Martinez, another class member, said she is trying to "keep her diet right," and she enjoys the class because it gets her thinking about healthy eating.
Josh Hobbs, Clemson University Youth Learning Institute nutrition educator, and John Brunt, Abbeville Area Medical Center food service director and clinical dietitian, walked the participants through the dish's nutritional facts while expanding the lessons to the reasons fresh vegetables are better than canned vegetables -- because of sodium levels -- and the best place to buy fresh vegetables -- farmers markets.
As the class' scope reached beyond AAMC's education room, Hobbs and Brunt offered tidbits to how to best prepare other dishes. For example, Hobbs said to not add salt to water to make it boil faster as this increases the food's sodium levels. He also advised people to heat the water and noodles at the same as this saves energy.
Outlining the importance of "eating the rainbow," Brunt explained why people need to cook with foods that are different colors. As the night's dish had three vegetables -- a green, a white and an orange vegetable, he said the vegetables vary in antioxidants and nutrients. For example, broccoli is high in fiber, and carrots enhance vision.
The evidence-based course is based off USDA information and aims to not only cook healthy meals but good-tasting meals.
For people with diabetes and watching their sugar intake, Monday night's recipe does not have to include the four tablespoons of sugar as the peanut butter also contains sugar. Hobbs also recommended to double up on vegetables to add to the recipe.
After everyone sampled the Asian noodles with peanut butter sauce recipe, Hobbs challenged the participants to create another healthy sauce to use in the dish to replace the peanut butter sauce. He also challenged them to complete the meal at home with healthy, nutritional sides.
Although the Cooking Matters class members preferred different things from the dish, they created a healthy, tasty dish together.
Contact Mary Kate McGowan at 864-223-1812 or follow her on Twitter @IJMKMcGowan.
Asian noodles with peanut butter sauce
Serves: 8 with 1 cup per serving
Prep time:10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
16-ounce package whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 bag frozen vegetables such as broccoli or snow peas, thawed
Optional ingredient: 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1. Cook pasta using package directions. Make sauce and veggies while pasta cooks.
2. In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter and warm water. Stir into a smooth, thin sauce.
3. Add soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Mix until sugar dissolves. If using, stir in red pepper flakes.
4. In a microwave-safe bowl, add thawed frozen veggies and 1/3 cup of water. Steam in microwave for three to five minutes. Drain any excess water.
5. Poor peanut sauce and steamed veggies over cooked, drained pasta. Toss to combine. Serve warm or cold.