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Serving up healthy cooking tips

Health: Registered dietitian gives culinary advice to seniors who may have health problems

Posted: April 4, 2010 9:38 p.m.
Updated: April 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Registered dietitian Stephanie Correnti pours a sample of her pomegranate smoothie for seniors as they look over the recipe during a cooking class at the Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments on Friday. Correnti will present recipes every Friday until April 23.

Stephanie Correnti is on a mission.

The Valencia–based registered dietitian has spent much of her 27-year career advising clients and companies, as well as AIDs/HIV patients, on how to eat healthy on a budget.

Now she’s bringing her wealth of experience to Santa Clarita Valley seniors with the “Healthier Foods for a Healthier You” series of free cooking classes on Fridays through April 23 in the Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments multi-purpose room.

“I hope to increase health awareness and I adapt all my recipes to be as healthy as possible but still maintain their taste,” Correnti said. “I try to find a diet that is conducive to a person’s medical history with food that is flavorful and affordable, but healthier, too.”

With seniors, Correnti focused on ingredients low in cholesterol, sodium and sugar, as she explained to the audience.

“Many of you, I am sure, have various health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and many of you need to keep an eye on your sugar and cholesterol intakes, among other things. But that is the great thing about the recipes I will be providing for you all, and most recipes out there. These recipes can be adjusted to each of your individual needs,” she told the dozen or so guests.

Correnti’s  first demonstration was of a pomegranate smoothie recipe, which according to her research, contained many antioxidants that help keep the body functioning smoothly by helping systolic blood pressure and slowing cartilage loss in people with arthritis.

While preparing the cool and frothy refreshment, Correnti described the benefits of using pure juice as opposed to juice cocktails, which the original smoothie recipe called for.

“Pure juice doesn’t have added sugars or syrups that are pumped into the cocktails, so using pure juices actually keeps the smoothie better for the body,” she told the attendees. “When you look over the ingredients of a dish, these are the kinds of things you need to be looking for. Always ask yourself if there is any way you can make the recipe healthier.”

Though pomegranates may seem like a miracle fruit, Correnti warned that they are extremely high in calories and can negatively interact with some medications.

“You should always let your doctor know what is going on with your body and the food you put into it,” Correnti suggested.

Lisa Tosto, an Agua Dulce resident, was impressed with Correnti’s presentation.

 “I was shocked to learn about the benefits of pomegranates and all the nutritional value it has. I was happy to know the fruit is better for your digestive system and gives you more energy,” Tosto said.

Every week, Correnti plans to bring in a new recipe that she can deconstruct with the class, reviewing the ingredients in advance to ensure they are stripped of any excessively unhealthy ingredients.

“When a recipe calls for whole milk, you can use skim milk instead. Simple things like this can really make a dish healthier without taking away from the taste,” she said.

Since many seniors are on a fixed income, Correnti also reviewed ways to save at the grocery store, such as scouting for coupons and sales, buying in bulk and sharing with neighbors. Picking seasonal produce is also a budget-stretcher, since fruits and vegetables in season are usually a lot cheaper than those that aren’t and have to be imported from other states or countries.

She used organic produce in her recipes, but shared that she understood it can be expensive and unfeasible for some households.

Instead, she suggested seniors focus on reading labels and learning how to decipher the nutritional information on them, such as calories per serving, as well as increasing the number of whole foods such as unprocessed grains, fruits and vegetables to their diet.

“Too much of anything can be harmful, so limit your doses. For example, too much protein can damage your kidneys,” Correnti warned. “You each have different needs and you should definitely consult with your doctor if you question any of the recipes I’m handing out.”

Correnti acknowledged that diet food can often lack in flavor, so she is a fan of adding herbs and spices for tasty pizazz. She promised the class a meal of curried shrimp the following Friday.

Kathy Kunkel of Valencia was excited about the prospect.

“I can’t wait to find out all the information she has to give to us. I’ll be here next week,” Kunkel said. “It was good to learn about nutrition in cooking and it was great that it was free. It’s difficult for seniors to live and eat on a budget.”

“Healthier Foods for a Healthier You” cooking classes, noon-1 p.m., Fridays through April 23, Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments, 26705 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus. For information or to RSVP, call Robin at (661) 259-9444, Ext. 110.


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