Community Program Cooks Up Good Health

Community Program Cooks Up Good Health

Barbara Sabbag, Diane Casey and Irene Price all love to cook. The three women live in a senior citizen housing community in Bedford, Mass., where they regularly prepare meals.

While attending an appointment at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Casey learned about a program called Cooking Up Good Health, a cooking demonstration class Lahey offers its patients and the broader community to encourage better eating habits. She went back to her community and told her friends Sabbag and Price, and they started going regularly.

“Now, I come with as many people as my car will fit,” said Casey. “It’s a wonderful time and you learn so much.”

During the sessions, registered dietitian Kathy Schader prepares a variety of dishes, stopping often for questions and to explain ingredient choices and other prep tips. For this session, one dish is a vibrant spring salad with asparagus, scallions and quinoa, a seed unfamiliar many of the 14 participants.

“We learn to use a lot of ingredients that we wouldn’t normally use,” said Sabbag, who suffers from diabetes and says the classes have helped her better understand what is okay for her to eat. She was particularly excited about the quinoa. “My granddaughter has celiac disease, so now I can make her favorite Syrian dish using it as a substitute.”

After the dishes are prepared, the participants get to enjoy a sampling and the room fills with conversation. Schader sits down with Casey, Sabbag and Price.

“When you watch a food show on TV, you may write down the recipe, but you may not make it,” said Schader. “But when you actually taste something, you tend to say, ‘I can do that.’”

Casey chimes in.

“You’re exactly right. I watch a show and think ‘I can make that,’ but it’s not gonna happen. But with you, here, I will do it. I make these recipes and end up looking like a rock star for my family when they visit.”