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Eat Healthy, Grow Strong: Go Shopping and Cook!

This week First 5 LA’s weekly e-newsletter, The Monday Morning Report, featured a story about the Eat Healthy, Grow Strong in store cooking demonstration in Best Start Communities. MMR writer Denise Nix joined us at the Best Start Broadway-Manchester cooking demonstration, along with close to 30 Best Start partnership members, and wrote the article below. Click here to sign-up for the MMR.

In the miles around Superior Grocers’ South Los Angeles location on Avalon Boulevard, there are no other full-service markets offering a similar variety of fresh produce, aisles of food and cold sections stocked with dairy, meat and fruits and vegetables. For families with young children who live in this neighborhood, the Best Start Broadway-Manchester Community, this is the only spot where they have a shot at shopping healthy.

But getting to the store is not enough. In the quest to be healthy and avoid obesity, parents and caregivers need to know how to shop for nutritious food and how to prepare it once it’s home.

About 30 community members joined First 5 LA’s Best Start and the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California’s Champions for Change team in the store on March 15 to take a tour and learn about selecting nutritious products and to watch a cooking demonstration.

Lydia Garcia from Network for a Healthy California led the group around the store, pausing in front of various food items to engage in lively conversations about their nutritional values. In front of the papayas and pineapples, she explained that they are tropical fruits, high in sugar but also packed with enzymes that help the body break down fatty foods. “Oh, really? I didn’t know that!” one member of the group exclaimed.

Then, as she did with most of the produce, she demonstrated how to choose the best ones (for pineapples, smell the bottom: if it’s sweet, it’s ripe!). Salad pre-cut in a bag is just as healthy as the head, but choose darker leaves and pre-wash before use, she said.

Garcia surprised everyone by explaining that produce like chiles, tomatoes, avocadoes and cucumbers are fruits, not vegetables (it’s the seeds). Many in the group were also surprised at how much sodium was found in canned fruits and vegetables. “This is the best alternative to fresh produce,” she said, holding up a bag of frozen blueberries.

After, they learned how to make a healthy and delicious salad with papaya, cilantro, scallions, black beans and the juice from fresh-squeezed lemons.

Juan Gomez, a member of the local Neighborhood Action Council and Manos Unidas (Hands United), said he was surprised how healthy and tasty a dish like this can be for so little money. “It feeds a big family,” he said. Gomez was pleased with all he learned and said he will go online to download more healthy recipes from the Champions for Change website.

Everyone who attended got a re-usable Eat Healthy, Grow Strong grocery bag from Best Start, while the kids each received a copy of I Can Eat a Rainbow and a growth chart.

To learn more about First 5 LA’s current campaign, Eat Healthy, Grow Strong, including resources, events and giveaways for parents, visit Ready. Set. Grow!

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