Cooking for Your Life

January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

by Claudia Shenoda, CAFB Nutrition Educator, BSFCS

I was honored to work with a group of older adults who participated in my Cooking for Your Life Class, a four-week series that teaches low-income adults about food and kitchen safety, basic nutrition principles, and allows participants to prepare a variety of healthy, budget-friendly recipes.  I taught the classes at Conley-Guerrero Senior Center, a community gathering place for senior citizens in east Austin.  Thirty-six seniors attended the classes over four weeks and many of them came to all four classes.

At first I wasn’t sure if this group, with so many diverse life experiences, would find my class useful, but their enthusiasm and faithful attendance each week showed me that they wanted to be there.  Janey Martinez, a diligent participant, told me every class that she learned so much (I was able to witness this personally as she told me of her smarter choices at the grocery store using the nutrition label to make healthier decisions), and others often thanked me warmly for the day’s lesson which provided new information and reinforcing messages about nutrition and food safety.  I even won over a veteran/professional cake baker who was skeptical when we made banana nut muffins with little oil, no sugar and whole wheat flour.  However, she positively expressed her regard of the recipes we prepared by preparing all of them in her own home over the course of four weeks.

The food safety component of this class, which focuses on four principles—clean, separate, chill and cook—proved especially relevant to this group because older adults are one of the three groups most susceptible to food borne illness.  The lessons on healthier choices, appropriate serving sizes, and the various health benefits among the grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy groups provided essential information to these seniors who are also among the highest nutritionally at-risk groups in the country.  Class participants also learned new ways to prepare foods using healthy and affordable ingredients using these recipes: Banana Nut Muffins; Chicken Salad with Apples, Walnuts, and Raisins; Tempting Tostadas; and Easy Lasagna.

Teaching the class proved a rewarding experience for all of us.  They said they gained invaluable knowledge that will help them live a longer and healthier life, and I gained a sense of honor in working with them to change the way they think, prepare, and consume food.

I’ve included the infamous class recipe for Banana Nut Muffins below.  This is a healthy and tasty recipe that is sure to be a hit with people of all ages!

Banana Nut Muffins Serving size: 1 muffin

Prep time: 20 minutes                                                                                             Serves: 14


2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup mashed bananas


1.       Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.       In a large bowl, beat oil, apple sauce and honey together. Add eggs, and mix well. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then add to batter. Blend in chopped nuts.

3.       Spray lined muffin tins with cooking spray.

4.       Fill lined muffin tins 2/3 of the way full.

5.       Bake for 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before enjoying.

Nutrition Information per Serving:

Calories 160, Total Fat 6g, Carbohydrates 26g, Fiber 3g, Protein 4g, Sodium 180mg, Cholesterol 30mg


Recipe modified by CHOICES Nutrition Education Program


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