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Class warms healthy cooking ideas

Nutrition: Dietitian at Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center offers tips on making healthy meals

Posted: April 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 11, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Correnti, left, discusses ingredients with Anny Fry as she prepares the salad. The class was part of an eight-week series that offers two classes every Friday, at 1 and 2:30 p.m. The free sessions focus on cooking and eating healthy as a senior.

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Anny Fry has been cooking for many decades. Still, she’s open to new ideas, especially ones that focus on her health as a senior.

The free “Healthier Foods for a Healthier You” cooking series at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall attracted Fry and more than a dozen other seniors for its inaugural class on April 1.

The eight-week series offers two classes every Friday — at 1 and 2:30 p.m. — and is sponsored by the Effective Nutritional Health Assessments and Networks of Care for the Elderly, or ENHANCE, which is provided by the Los Angeles Country Area on Aging III-D Funds for Health Promotion/Disease Prevention. Seniors are invited to attend any of the classes once each Friday and must register in advance at the center.

Taught by registered dietitian Stephanie Correnti, the first class offered an aromatic cooking demonstration of curried shrimp and fruit salad.

The recipe and Correnti’s presentation were inspiring to Fry, who lives in Saugus.

“I learned enough about nutrition today to go forward with a healthier food plan. I’m going to eat more fruits and vegetables and use my Crock-Pot,” she said. “It’s been a fun afternoon.”

Along with tempting recipes, Correnti educates her audience on how to eat healthy on a budget — something that can be especially useful to seniors on a fixed income.

She brings newspaper advertisements from different supermarkets to show how to maximize store specials and shop for the most cost-effective brands.

“This curry was only $4,” Correnti said, holding up a bottle of the yellow blend that can contain up to 20 or more spices. “With a different manufacturer, it could be as high as $7.”

Correnti also covers the health benefits of ingredients. That day’s curry contained turmeric, which has been shown in studies to reduce joint inflammation and possibly protect against heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, in addition to be a powerful antioxidant. It also featured curcumin, which may help protect against certain cancers.

“I’m careful not to overstep my boundaries. Beyond my food knowledge, I recommend seniors talk to their doctors or pharmacists about specific health issues,” Correnti said.

Watching salt and fat is a topic Correnti is fond of speaking about.

“A lot of us eat processed foods because it’s quick and convenient. We lose sight of what we’re supposed to focus on with food,” she said. “I enjoy teaching tips such as cooking a little extra so you have leftovers, or using leftovers in different ways.”

Upcoming recipes in the series, which covers the gamut, ranging from breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, will include bran pancakes on April 15; stuffed yams with black beans on April 22; orzo salad on April 29; delicious mango salsa on May 6; fried rice with scallions, edamame and tofu on May 13; and a nutty sprout sandwich on May 20.

Based on what she’s sampled so far, Diana Sevanian, health and wellness coordinator at the center, is excited about Correnti’s next culinary offerings.

“Sign-ups for classes doubled after everyone tasted her food. We really are what we eat, and the older I get, the more important it becomes to eat to maintain health, protect the immune system and feel better,” Sevanian commented. “It’s interesting to have a room of people, ages 50 to 80, still fascinated by good, relatively easy cooking. That’s really what the senior center is all about — ageless learning and promoting health.”

To register for the next “Healthy Foods for a Healthier You Class” on Friday, April 15, contact Diana Sevanian at (661) 255-1588, extension 128 or via email at dsevanian@scvsc.org. Registration is also available at the Supportive Services modular at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, 22900 Market St., Newhall.

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