By Jodi Belgard
Humana teamed up with Pilgrim Baptist Church in Natchez, Miss., on Nov. 4 to give the church’s congregation an up-close cooking demonstration just ahead of the holidays.
Healthy Holiday Makeover, a program sponsored by Humana, featured guest chef Rene’ Adams of Rolling River Bistro in Natchez.
The goal of the event was to provide healthy cooking tips to the home cook. Americans tend to gain weight during the holidays due to the abundance of cookies, cakes and candy on work desks and at social gatherings – not to mention Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners that can be a caloric catastrophe.
“As we get more into the holiday season, we all get very busy,” said Jennifer Huggins, Strategy Engagement Leader at Humana. “We wanted to host an event to help members of the community keep health at the forefront.”
Adams demonstrated low-fat, low-calorie variations on a number of holiday favorites, and those in attendance were able to taste her creations. Adams served a sample plate of traditional Thanksgiving fare, minus the fat. The menu – roasted turkey, meatballs, collard greens, sweet potato casserole and pecan pie – was prepared using little butter or cooking oil.
“It’s all about your heart, your arteries,” Adams said, adding that she has lost 30 pounds in an effort to get healthy.
She wants to extend that to the community at large, and the healthy cooking demonstration fit her mission.
“If we can change one or two people or expand somebody’s life a little longer, then we’ve accomplished our goal,” Adams said.
Pilgrim’s pastor, Melvin White, said he was happy to network with Humana to improve the health of his congregation.
“Anything that we can do to reach them, that’s what I want to do,” White said. “We have a growing food pantry ministry that started out providing food for 40 families a month. Now we serve 800 families a month.”
Teaching food pantry recipients healthier ways to prepare the food could be an unintended consequence of the Healthy Holiday Makeover event.
With Adams County experiencing high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease, it’s important for Humana to work in the community to create a stronger understanding of the relationship between healthy eating and healthy living.
Church member Susan Brice attended the event with a friend. She said just hearing the word “healthy” was enough to get her to attend.
“I have recently lost 30 pounds since July,” Brice said. “I’m hoping to get some pointers on cooking, some tips.”
Brice took notes throughout the demonstration, and, while she said she’s learned quite a bit through her new pursuit of healthiness, she picked up some new tips.
Adams spoke about low-fat substitutions for high-fat favorites, such as a low-fat sour cream/mayonnaise in place of full-fat mayonnaise, quinoa in place of rice and honey in place of sugar.
White said he learned a few things, as well.
“With some of the ingredients she was using, I was aware of them, but I didn’t know how to use them,” he said.
Healthy Holiday Makeover was a one-night-only event but served as a jumping-off point for White to get friends and family thinking about healthy eating. There are a number of diabetic and pre-diabetic people who attend Pilgrim Baptist Church, and several more who are friends and family of church members, White said. He said he hopes his congregation will take what they learned from the program and share it. That’s the only way to get real outreach, he said.