Cooking workshop touts benefits of healthy eating

Bryce Forbes

Following the latest trend of healthy eating, the Seven Generations Educational Institute here is running a series of two-day workshops targeting aboriginal people.
With 10 stops at reserves across Northwestern Ontario, Ryan Parisien will teach people about the benefits of eating healthy.
“We are hosting a two-day cooking workshop, showing people how to prepare food in a healthy manner,” he noted.
“The thought process behind it is you can go to the store and buy broccoli, which is healthy for you, but if you cook it in butter or salt, then that kind of defeats the purpose,” he reasoned.
“So what we are doing is showing different techniques on how to cook in a healthy manner.”
The workshop is called “Minojingewin,” or healthy eating in Ojibway, and will feature stops at the United Native Friendship Centre here and at Couchiching First Nation.
Parisien said this is a pilot project and if successful, they will run it again.
“It’s quite unique in the way that we are asking people what they already cook and taking a survey of the meals people prepare for themselves in their own households,” remarked Parisien, who works as a chef at Seven Generations and also runs a culinary arts program there throughout the winter months.
“Our target market is people with diabetes but realistically, everyone should be cooking this way,” he stressed.
According to Stats Canada there were 717,066 people living with diabetes in Ontario in 2009, or about one-in-20.
The cooking workshop, funded through the Northern Ontario Diabetes Network, is a hands-on program with each participant working in a mini-kitchen, including a mini-oven, mini-stove top, cooler, and water source.
“The idea is that the participants give me an idea of what they eat off of this meal plan,” Parisien explained.
“I take those recipes and adjust them into the healthiest way possible in producing it, using healthier fats such as olive oil or nut oil.
“Different techniques [so] instead of deep-frying your fish, here is a way to bake or poach it.”
Parisien said they have tried to include some traditional foods, as well, so he’s showing traditional recipes adjusted to be more healthy.
Oatmeal is a great example of ways to increase healthy eating, he noted.
“It starts out great for breakfast [but] people will add butter and salt to it, or lard and salt to it, because that is what they are used to all of their life,” Parisien remarked.
“I’m showing you can take your oatmeal and you can flavour it with apple sauce or other means, like cinnamon or nutmeg, which is going to be a lot better for you and taste better,” he stressed.
Parisien calls healthy eating the new trend in food.
“Boston Pizza has jumped on board and changed their menu to become more low-sodium, low-sugar, low-carbohydrate and even celiac friendly,” he noted.
“I’ve been in this business for 15 years and I remember when wraps and pitas were the big deal, and now this is the new trend,” he added.
“Since I started researching and developing this program, it’s really changed the way I’ve looked at food, the way I shop, and the way I’m preparing food,” Parisien admitted.
“Generally being a chef or being a home cook, all you worry about is making something taste good, or if you’re a chef, making it look good, too.
“But this has really changed my viewpoint on how food is done and prepared, and what goes in it and not just pleasing the palate, but also pleasing the body,” he argued.
The workshop will be held at the UNFC here on July 26-27, and then at Couchiching on July 28-29.
For more information or to register, contact the Seven Generations Educational Institute at 274-8569.