Introduce health food into the family menu slowly, a chef advised.
YOUNGSTOWN -- When people gather at church, there's often food nearby.
And nutrition educator June Ewing asks, if you're cooking for a crowd, why not make the menu a healthful one?
Ewing brought her healthful eating message to a group of about 100 church cooks Friday evening at Mill Creek Community Center.
The free program was sponsored by Third Baptist Church and its health awareness committee, the American Cancer Society, the Humility of Mary Health Partners and Mahoning Valley Men in Cancer. Each participating church received healthful eating information and an American Cancer Society cookbook.
The group targeted black churches, because blacks tend to have some health problems that can be addressed by modifying their eating habits, Ewing said. Among those health problems are hypertension, diabetes, obesity and colon cancer.
"Food is so comforting," Ewing said. "If someone comes to our house, we want to feed them. Having plenty of food is the way to go. We serve food for everything."
The key to changing eating habits is making small modifications, Ewing said.
"I don't deny it," Ewing said. "We love our fried chicken. But many of you are baking that chicken now. Instead of the macaroni and cheese that you love and I love, we're serving redskin potatoes.
"Would your church like this kind of food? We love good-tasting food. Nobody wants to mess with that. Just modify the foods you serve."
Ewing gave out aprons to each church with "Culinary Ministry" written across the front. She is encouraging churches to serve healthful meals at banquets and funerals, allowing people to see that healthful food is tasty, too.
Local caterer Jenny Lott-Thomas served the group a healthful menu: chicken creole, redskin potatoes, a vegetable medley, corn muffins and salad. Lott-Thomas shared tips for cutting fat, calories and sodium, including using garlic and onion powder, for example.
"There are so many other things you can season your food with besides salt," Lott-Thomas said.
Lott-Thomas told the group to introduce healthful food into a family or church menu gradually.
"It's something you do over time," she said. "Pretty soon, they don't know what's hit them."