TROY- When Sallie Steele decided to participate in The Happy Kitchen™ classes in Montgomery County, her goal was one thing…to get healthy.
“My weight was a problem,” Steele says. “I had to do something about it, and The Happy Kitchen™ provided the assistance and support I needed.”
The Montgomery County resident and her sister signed up for The Happy Kitchen™, a nutrition education program offered by FirstHealth Community Health Services, in December 2011. Since then, she has lost a total of 68 pounds and doesn’t plan to stop there.
“The program taught me everything I was doing wrong,” Steele says.
The Happy Kitchen™ is a grant-funded program supported by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and targeted to low-income families in the mid-Carolinas. According to Linda Harte, program manager for Community Health Services, The Happy Kitchen™ wasn’t designed to teach individuals how to cook, but how to eat healthy and develop a healthy lifestyle.
“We teach individuals how to live healthy, eat healthy and be physically active,” Harte says. “We use fresh, local foods and teach participants how to cook on a budget with healthy foods, not processed foods.”
To better teach healthy eating, the FirstHealth health educators follow USDA guidelines.
During the six-week Happy Kitchen™ series, participants are instructed to act as “food detectives,” deciphering what is good and bad.
“Each week focuses on a different food group,” says Ellie Wiles, health educator and Happy Kitchen™ instructor. “So each week brings a new word to detect.”
When learning about grains the detective word is “whole” and when learning about produce, the detective word is “fresh” Wiles says. “We teach participants to use fresh and local produce and to support local farmers when the produce is available.”
On the last day of class, the “celebration” day, instructors show their students vials of fat to demonstrate the amount of fat in a fast food hamburger and vials of sugar to demonstrate the amount of sugar in a can of soda.
“I haven’t had a soda since December,” Steele says, “it was the hardest thing for me to give up and, surprisingly, I do not miss it.”
To further her lifestyle change, Steele now bakes certain foods, like chicken, instead of frying them, and eats a healthy breakfast every morning. She has also limited her salt intake, no longer eats anything “white” and measures out portion sizes.
She says the classes have also helped her influence other people in her life. She now teaches those around her to grab healthy snacks like fiber bars instead of chips or cookies. And instead of choosing a hamburger at a fast food restaurant, she opts for a salad instead.
“I feel so much better now,” she says.
Steele credits Wiles with giving her a new understanding about healthy eating. “Ellie was the biggest help to me,” Steele says. “I just want to thank her again for all she taught me. Because of her, my life changed and I would recommend The Happy Kitchen™ to anyone who has struggled with weight-loss.”
For more information about Happy Kitchen™ or for upcoming class schedules contact FirstHealth Community Health Services toll-free at (877) 342-2255.