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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Cooking class brings flavor to healthy eating

New Mexicans with diabetes now have some new menu options to look forward to through "Kitchen Creations," a four-part cooking school for people with diabetes and their families.

Free of charge to participants, Kitchen Creations is offered statewide by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service as part of a diabetes outreach program. The classes meet once a week and focus on simple meal planning strategies, balancing carbohydrates, vegetables and heart healthy cooking.

"These classes are very fun. We prepare familiar foods like enchiladas along with less familiar foods, such as eggplant lasagna," said Karim Martinez, Dona Ana County Extension agent.

The classes are primarily hands-on, with ample opportunities for participants to prepare recipes using new techniques and ingredients, as well as opportunities to taste dishes that they and their classmates have prepared.

The first half of each three-hour class is taught by a certified diabetes educator or a dietician. During the second half, participants practice cooking.

The classes encourage participants to try new ingredients and techniques, but also respect New Mexico's cultural traditions by incorporating New Mexican and Native American recipes.

Gayla Weaver, Dona Ana County Extension agent, suggested that the program is very important to Dona Ana County residents.

"The rate of diabetes in Dona Ana County is significantly higher than the national rate," she said.

Martinez encourages families coping with diabetes to sign up. "It's a bonding experience, and everyone learns really important information," she said.

Evaluations of the program have shown that Kitchen Creations has a favorable impact on participants' long-term meal planning decisions; improves consumption of non-starchy vegetables, beans, and whole grains, and increases use of healthy food preparation techniques, such as flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.

The next available Kitchen Creations will begin on March 12. The classes will be taught in Anthony, N.M., and coordinated by Weaver. This class will be offered only in Spanish.

The next Las Cruces class, coordinated by Karim Martinez, will begin April 10 at Mayfield High School, and will be taught in English. A Spanish Kitchen Creations will be held in Las Cruces in June.

Anyone interested in the program can call the Dona Ana Cooperative Extension Office at (505) 525-6649 to sign up.

The Cooperative Extension Service has long been a source of nutrition information for the citizens of New Mexico. This program, which reached 926 people in 2006, is one of many NMSU outreach efforts to help improve the lives of New Mexicans and educate the community.