Newstart makes healthy food fun

By: Chelsea Foster, Colfax Record Correspondent
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The Weimar Institute’s Newstart cooking classes shows students that healthy eating can be delicious and food preparation can be fun. Cooking instructor Sally Christensen, who has been teaching food preparation and culinary courses for over 20 years, said that cooking with fresh, healthy ingredients can be much more palatable than many people would think. “My goal is to make food that is good for you also taste good,” Christensen said. Her students agree that her goal is accomplished with each class. Lisa Ward, a student from Cleburne, Texas, said that her preconceived notions about healthy vegetarian food have been turned upside down by these classes. “I thought in order to be healthy, I just had to tolerate good food. But this is delicious. I could see myself talking my kids into eating this,” Ward said. Anita Severance, a Newstart student from Edgewood, N.M., said that the food and the company are equally lovely and diverse. “Everything we make is just delicious. Everyone here is wonderful, too. We meet people from all over the world,” Severance said. For each class, Christensen teaches the students how to prepare health-conscious, vegetarian and vegan recipes from scratch. The Weimar Institute’s Seventh-day Adventist roots prioritize health, and Christensen strives to use fresh, whole foods in each recipe. The cooking courses are part of the Newstart Lifestyle Program, an 18-day on-site health recovery course that the Weimar Institute offers for people seeking to restructure their lifestyle. Christensen also teaches courses occasionally through the Placer School for Adults. Nastasya Bravarets, one of Christensen’s assistants for the Newstart classes, explained that each class is different. “Sometimes it’s hands-on so they can try out how it works. Other days Sally does demonstrations. Usually it’s a little of both,” Bravarets said. The types of foods that students learn to make are varied and instruction is comprehensive. Each student receives a cookbook and various handouts to take home so they can make the recipes at home after they leave the Institute. Recipes include offerings like Southwestern crustless quiche, cashew coconut granola, traditional French salad dressing, key lime pie and many more. “They learn new things every day. Sometimes Asian food, Hispanic food, finger foods, breakfast foods,” Bravarets said. Christensen also teaches students how to read labels on different packaged foods, de-mystifying the hard-to-read parts of food labeling. The students pass around different packaged foods and dissect the labels together, calculating the calories, fat calories, sodium and other important nutrients. Christensen said that each person’s different nutritional needs should come into play when reading labels, and she shows the students how to watch for the things they need to intake and avoid on an individual basis. “In this class, you’ll have to become a label reader,” Christensen said. The focus on nutrition from a scientific perspective appeals to many of the students on an intellectual level, presenting modern evidence for nutritional principles. Dottie Jones, a student from Pleasant Hill, said that she values the evidence behind what she learns. “We have been amazed at how good the food is. And there is a real scientific basis for all this, which I appreciate. They get their information from current medical journals, and they apply it,” Jones said. Noreena May, from Carson, enrolled in Newstart to better her health for herself and her family. She has type II diabetes, which had been getting out of control. She also serves as a caretaker for her chronically ill daughter and her husband, who has cancer. “I thought maybe I could get some help and resources to help my family,” May said. “I need to stop enabling them. They need to get up, get some sunshine and eat right.” May has learned to prepare and enjoy healthy foods through the New Start classes, and she has improved her own health at the same time. “I’ve lost a little weight here, and I plan to continue eating healthy at home and lose a little more. You lose a little weight and your diabetes improves. Then your blood pressure goes down. Then you lose a little more weight. It all works together,” May said. “This program has given me the wherewithal to start a new lifestyle for myself and my family."