Discovering Healthier Snacks
By Miranda Rowe | HealthCorps Coordinator 2019 – 2020
Before New York City public schools shut down on March 16th, 2020, I was in the midst of an exciting programming initiative at Renaissance High School for Musical Theater and the Arts: Cooking Club. For the past two months, I had been holding a Cooking Club at a co-located school, Pelham Lab High School, and was excited to start a similar club at Renaissance. With 25 applications and permission slips submitted, we were off to a good start.
To start off the club, I went with an easy activity. During our first meeting we cut up a variety of fruits and vegetables for a hummus taste-test. From cucumbers to bell peppers to apples, each student had time to master their knife skills. My supervisor, Kate, came to this meeting and was able to capture images of the fun produce lesson and, most importantly, the hummus taste test that followed.
The day before the first meeting I purchased one bag of reduced fat pita chips and three different types of hummus: Original, Roasted Garlic, and Chocolate. Most of these students had never had hummus before, let alone chocolate hummus. To their surprise, each type was quickly devoured. The chocolate hummus won.
While most of the club was munching on celery and carrots, one student was sitting out. From her application I knew that she was diabetic, so I brought one container of hummus and the bag of pita chips over to her seat. Together, we looked through the nutrition labels on each. She was shocked to see that the chips had less that 10% carbs and the hummus had only 1%. In other words, this was a diabetic friendly snack she had never heard about. After her initial bite of each, it was clear that she was happy to be able to participate in the taste-test with her peers. Moreover, she predicted that her mom would start to purchase hummus and pita chips regularly once she heard about their nutritional benefits. As a health educator, it was great to hear such rave reviews from someone whose eating habits have been restricted for most of her life.
At our next meeting the following week, the Cooking Club made whole-wheat pancakes. One table was responsible for measuring and mixing the dry ingredients together, another group for the wet ingredients, and another table worked on chopping fruits to top the pancakes. When the ingredients were all mixed together and the cooking started, each group cleaned their station. We arranged a corner with forks, plates, the chopped fruit, and syrup. In my preparation for this meeting, I purchased two types of syrup: regular and sugar-free with the diabetic student in mind. Placed next to each other and alongside the other ingredients, the sugar-free syrup was a nice addition.
Although I forgot a spatula and had to improvise when it came time to flip the pancakes, the pancakes were met with rave reviews from the club members. In the end, the sugar-free syrup was used by most of the students. It was nice to normalize different dietary restrictions while educating students on the importance of limiting sugar and carb intake, whether you are diabetic or not.
I will certainly miss this dynamic group and flexible space for nutrition education while schools are closed. I hope that these students are taking time to prepare meals at home during their remote learning experience – and are eating lots of hummus!