MORGANTOWN — When tasting food, the first thing that may pop into someone’s head is the cliché of “needs more salt.”
In Belinda Nicholas’ case, that wasn’t an issue in her instructional class at the WVU Extension office Monday May 21.
As a part of Community Educational Outreach Service (CEOS) Week, the organization spent the morning learning about healthy alternatives to sodium.
A retired educator, Harriet Colebank from the CEOS said now a day’s people don’t get classes in school like home economics. She said taking a cooking class is a good opportunity to learn important life skills. Even into college she said the most useful classes she ever took were her junior high home economics classes.
Once known as the farm Women’s Club and also Extention Homemakers, CEOS largely is a community oriented and educational organization. They often take trips, and are involved in a number of programs like working with food pantries or helping out those with breast cancer. Colebank said different clubs will adapted different projects based on what they need in the community.
“Last year we had over 13,000 hours turned in of community service, and there’s a lot of people who don’t turn it in,” she said.
A large part of COES Week is to promote and recruit new members.
“We really would like to include more young members, some clubs meet in the evening, some meet during the day, so depending on what a person’s looking for they can probably find one that would meet their needs,” she said.
Aside from community outreach, Colbank said the organization gets involved in plenty of fun stuff too. Monday the group got to think about healthy eating with the help of Belinda Nicholas, a nutritionist with fresh ideas.
“It’s really nice to say ‘eat healthy.’ Go price the fresh food and the healthy food. They’re a lot more expensive than the hotdogs and chips. So you need someone like Belinda with all the great ideas how you can use cheaper cuts of meat and you can cook them, put the spices in and they taste wonderful,” said Colebank.
Nicholas made a wide array of foods with many spices most people commonly don’t use day to day. She made for the ladies tilapia with dill, also a beef dish and chicken dish. She offered ideas for courses from an appetizer, all the way down to dessert- sans extra salt and all relatively healthy.
In 2005, Nicholas was diagnosed with Diabetes, and shortly after became a vegetarian to maintain a healthier weight. From there, her food habits changed. She said moderation is the key to life in all things, especially food. She also said reading labels is what shocks most people when it comes to their food.
“Whenever they read the labels and see how much sodium is in something, then they’re like ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t know that reading a food label has so much information on it,’ and it does. Food label reading and budgeting your food is fantastic, and that’s what I teach in these classes,” said Nicholas.
She also said salt isn’t “bad” and wouldn’t use that word to describe it, but it should be eaten very moderately. She said people often think they’re doing really well because they eat a salad, but they may not think about the things they are actually putting on their salad.
“Try other things, like with the fish. We put lemon, lime and orange juice on fish and that made it have a different flavor,” she said.
In West Virginia she mentioned how there is a high instance of obesity, blood pressure, and children are obese. There are also young children developing high blood pressure and diabetes.
“I think the importance of eating healthy is to lower the risk of what we’re putting on our children, and what we’re putting on our bodies also,” she said.
People express to her that it might be more expensive to eat healthy, but in the long run she said it’s worth it to not have heart disease, diabetes or be overweight. She said people should be thinking about their bodies. She said people often say they can’t do it, but she believes you can do anything you put your mind to.
“You’ve got to make a habit out of what you eat,” she said.
Nicholas said she will be holding hands-on cooking classes in June. Both CEOS and Nicholas’ classes are provided with support from the WVU Extension Service office located in Westover.