Cameron is four, loves the New England Patriots' quarterback “Terrific Tommy”, and won't touch a vegetable once it's been cooked. His one year old brother, Colby, likes to ‘play’ hockey with his mini hockey stick, and will eat anything. Their mom, Kerri, adores her two boys but has always hated cooking. . . until recently.
Kerri just graduated from a Cooking Matters course held at the Dorchester South WIC office. At first she was skeptical about the course. “I just hated to cook, and I didn’t think I wanted to do a cooking class. But, I wanted to be healthy and I wanted my kids to be healthy.” Wanting the best for her boys was the extra motivation she needed to attend.
Kerri’s dislike for cooking meant she often relied on packaged foods or ordering pizza. By the end of the six week course though, Kerri no longer found cooking tedious and discovered that it could even be fun! She learned that she needed to be more organized and started planning her meals ahead of time. Kerri picked up ideas like cutting up extra vegetables ahead of time, making the next meal quicker and easier to get on the table. “We always loved eating at Mexican restaurants, but I was afraid to makes beans at home. Now I make a big bowl of beans at the start of each week and eat that for lunch everyday with whatever vegetables I have on hand.”
Perhaps the most important thing Kerri learned was how to read labels. “I never realized how much stuff was added to food, especially salt.” Her youngest son Colby only has one kidney, and Kerri knew that eventually he would need to be on a low sodium diet. Rather than making a change later, she began moving the whole family to a diet that used less salt. Before the class, Kerri didn’t read labels, or even notice that she had a choice for low sodium products. Now she always double checks the nutrition facts, chooses low sodium foods, and uses more spices and herbs to flavor meals. “I started making my own low salt taco seasoning using the recipe from class, and my son actually prefers it to the packaged seasonings I used to use.”
By the end of the course, Cooking Matters had become the highlight of Kerri’s week. She not only began to enjoy cooking, but she also embraced the sense of community she experienced with the other participants. “Listening to everyone's stories and sharing the small changes made by everyone made us all more willing to try new things together.” With encouragement from the other moms, Kerri tried spinach for the first time and now says she puts it in everything from salads to smoothies for herself and her sons. Instead of buying cookies for her sons, she makes them herself and uses whole wheat flour. Looking back, Kerri said “it was a great experience that I didn’t want to end.”