Learn to Love Vegetables

Americans do not have a good relationship with vegetables.

Almost 90 percent of us don’t meet intake recommendations for vegetables (2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines). And even more of us fail to eat enough from the five vegetable subgroups: dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other.

Yet, plant-based eating is a hot topic. There’s something wrong here!

How can we help our clients or students learn to love vegetables? It starts with the basics – how to select, store, and prepare different veggies.

If your students or clients can’t work with veggies hands-on, the next best thing is our Building a Plant-Based Eating Pattern: Vegetables DVD.

This DVD offers an unbelievable amount of material – everything from the nutrients and health benefits of different veggies to their flavor profiles and culinary uses. But my favorite parts are the cooking demos that show kitchen hacks for preparing all types of vegetables to perfection.

You can use the cooking demos on this DVD all year long to show your clients or students how to prepare what’s in season. One demo shows how to use roasted tomatoes, onions, and peppers to make a marinara sauce that’s served over zucchini noodles – perfect for the summer farmers market season. Other demos show how to prepare veggies like artichokes, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and more.

Even the best home cooks (and the most seasoned registered dietitians!) will learn something new from these fun segments that show how to use every part of plants and learn to love vegetables.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD


Take a Look at Fall Vegetables

Fall is officially here! Along with cooler temperatures, we’re excited to see a new crop of seasonal vegetables at farmer’s markets and in the supermarket.

For too many people, fall produce means pumpkins (or just pumpkin spice!) and sweet potatoes. We know that’s just the beginning, so why not offer a class on fall vegetables? We have a DVD that makes it easy for you, and it’s perfect for virtual class settings.

Our Building a Plant-Based Eating Pattern: Vegetables DVD has everything you need to teach practical skills that your audience will be able to use right away. Videos show them how to select, store, and prepare all types of vegetables. They’ll also see kitchen veggie hacks and take home healthy, delicious recipes.

The DVD breaks vegetables down into categories based on plant parts (roots, tubers, bulbs; stalks; leaves; flowers; fruits; and seeds), because these parts often have similar preparation and cooking methods.

For fall, you might want to use the lesson on Bulbs, Tubers, and Roots because so many are now in season:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas

Through engaging videos, your audience will learn how to choose the freshest bulb, tuber, and root veggies; where to store them; and their health benefits. They’ll feel like they are right in the kitchen as we show them how to make an easy vegetable root salad with greens, shaved ginger, grated carrots, and thinly-sliced golden beets, all tossed in vinegar and oil. They’ll also see how to use baked, roasted, microwaved, and pureed veggies to make a healthy MyPlate.

The Building a Plant-Based Eating Pattern: Vegetables DVD also includes recipes you can give the audience. How do Cider Baked Sweet Potatoes, Carrot Hummus, and Raspberry & Beet Cheesecake sound?

Of course, there are many other fall vegetables covered throughout the seven lessons included in our DVD. Maybe you’ll focus on winter squash, Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli … the possibilities are endless!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD


More Cooking Demo Ideas

Last week, we explored ideas for MyPlate cooking demos that you can do on Zoom, Facebook, or YouTube (if you missed it, click here). But we can’t talk about food demos without mentioning our Cooking Demo Ideas Book & CD, which has more than 300 pages and 30+ lessons on topics like fiber, heart health, portion control, fruits, and veggies, ethnic dishes, food safety, and meal planning.

We’ve done all the work for you — tested recipes, prepared shopping lists, written speaker’s notes, created handouts, and more. You just have to decide which lessons and food demos to do! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Cooking for One – for seniors and singles who are mostly home alone during the pandemic.
  2. Budget Cooking – for families who now more than ever are on a tight budget.
  3. Kids in the Kitchen – for home-schoolers and parents who need activities for their children.
  4. No-Cook Recipes – for people with disabilities or those who don’t have everyday access to a kitchen.
  5. Fish Twice a Week – for families stuck in the chicken-beef-pork protein routine.
  6. Healthy Asian, African, Italian, Latin – for anyone who wants to broaden their cooking horizons (and avoid pricey & often unhealthy takeout!)

You can supplement your cooking demo with the two PowerPoint shows that come with the book:

  • Recipe Modification: Our best tips on modifying recipes; 50 slides with speaker’s notes.
  • Menu Planning and Shopping Tips: Three ways to plan meals; 21 slides with speaker’s notes.

Remember, our PowerPoint shows are instantly downloadable, editable, and always come with lifetime updates!

Cooking demos: What’s holding you back?

There’s never been a better time to use cooking demos for nutrition and health education. Your clients and students will love seeing something new and engaging on your Zoom calls or social media pages.

Even if you’ve never done a cooking demo, we make it easy for you! Our books and PowerPoint shows are based on simple, tested recipes. We guide you step-by-step through the process of planning and executing a cooking demo.

One of my favorites is our MyPlate Cooking Demo Ideas Book & CD. It has something for everyone – recipes for children and adults, different cooking methods, and even a 5-step plan to prepare for your demo.

Here are some ideas for virtual cooking demos you could do using our MyPlate Cooking Demo Ideas Book & CD:

  1. Four Ways to MyPlate – A series for new or busy cooks, featuring four basic cooking methods for MyPlate recipes:
    -Clever cooking with a rice cooker
    -Simple skillet suppers
    -Marvelous microwave meals
    -Fast meals with the slow cooker
  2. Just for Kids MyPlate – A class where students watch you prepare a MyPlate recipe, then try it at home with a caregiver’s help.
  3. The Three S’s – MyPlate Sides, Salads, & Snacks: Go live on Facebook or YouTube with short cooking demos.
  4. Ban Breakfast Boredom with MyPlate – a class or series featuring simple recipes for the first meal of the day.
  5. Bonus! Shopping with MyPlate PowerPoint presentation – Offer this add-on to your class or series. With speaker’s notes and handouts, we’ve done all the work for you.

With cell phones, tablets, and laptops, anyone can record their own food demo. Let your clients and students choose a recipe to demonstrate for the group — they’ll love being a celebrity chef for the day!

More ideas include cook-a-longs. Now they can cook with you while you are using Zoom or going live on social media channels.

The same tips apply:

  1. Think about how you can show a meal that is relevant to your audience considering local food sources, seasonal and pandemic availability, cultural and local tastes, and of course nutrition lessons and making a  healthy plate.
  2. Measure out all the ingredients so no one has to watch you do that.
  3. Consider having multiple stages pre-prepared. For example, have an item baked or cooked if it takes a long time to do that. So you can show how to do it and then what it looks like when done.
  4. Always practice a dish a few times so it feels familiar and easy to you.
  5. Smile and have fun!

Nutrition Education in the COVID-19 Era

What does nutrition and health education look like in the COVID-19 era? People want to know how to …

  • Stay healthy, boost their immune system, and reduce their chance of catching the virus.
  • Prevent or manage chronic diseases, like diabetes, that can lead to serious COVID-19 complications.
  • Save money at the supermarket and cook healthy meals at home.

We have a collection of COVID-19 Era Nutrition Education materials to help you teach these topics. But what about social distancing and people who want to learn in a no-contact setting? The PowerPoint shows in our COVID-19 collection make it easy to offer engaging online workshops that meet your clients’ needs.

Here’s one example of how you could use our shows:

Saving money at the supermarket is a hot topic right now. You could offer a two-part online series that appeals to the broad audience of folks who, pre-COVID, were in the habit of eating out a lot.

Start out by dispelling the myth that healthy food is expensive – our Healthy Eating on a Budget PowerPoint presentation proves it. Your clients will learn:

  • Cost per ounce and nutrition facts for choices from each MyPlate food group.
  • How to plan meals, build a shopping list, and limit food waste.
  • Budget-friendly ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
  • Lots of other money-saving tips.

Since saving money means cooking at home more, the second part of your online series should be our 25 Ingredients Into 15 Fast Healthy Meals PowerPoint show. With real photos of real food, your audience will learn to prepare a week’s worth of low-fat, high-fiber meals. We even provide tips on how to use our recipes for your own cooking demo in case you want to add that to your online workshop.

If this idea for a two-part workshop series doesn’t work for you, just change it up. Maybe split the information into 15-minute sessions. And all of our PowerPoint shows come with downloadable handouts that you can send to clients as a follow-up to what they’ve learned.

If you are planning in-person classes or events, check out our new custom printed face masks

Top 5 Reasons to Enjoy Family Meals At Home

Despite the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs, many people don’t know how to cook. But cooking is an important skill, one that can help your students or clients eat healthier for the rest of their lives. Read on for our three steps to getting people cooking in 2020!

Step 1: Let your audience know how learning to cook can benefit them. People are motivated by different things, so find out what’s important to them:

  1. Cooking at home is healthier than eating out or relying on convenience foods.
  2. Cooking at home saves money.
  3. Cooking is something you can do with your friends and family.
  4. Cooking skills are a gift you can pass on to younger generations (or if their parents don’t know how to cook, the kids might teach them something!).
  5. Cooking lets you take control of what you eat, which can help if you have a chronic disease like diabetes.

Step 2: A little bit of cooking knowledge goes a long way. This is important to you, the teacher, as well as your audience. You need to know that even offering one-time classes on things like knife skills, basic recipes, and cooking methods can be helpful. They need to know that being a good cook isn’t what they see on TV.

  1. A class on basic knife skills will make prepping vegetables for healthy salads and recipes quick and easy, not a chore.
  2. Learning a few basic recipes will increase your confidence in the kitchen and give you a few healthy meals to build on.
  3. When you learn about different cooking methods, you can use that knowledge even without a recipe.

Step 3: Get our Home Run Cooking Book and Cooking Demo program. It has everything you need to do food demonstrations that will get your clients cooking.

  1. Every recipe in the cookbook has been crowd-tested, is easy to make (even for the beginner), and uses inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients. And when you purchase our program, it’s easy to download and make copies of recipes to hand out!
  2. There’s something for every audience. You can focus on recipes for a specific meal or start from the beginning by teaching them how to set up a kitchen, stock a pantry, and use a knife.
  3. You’ll have health lessons to go along with each demo recipe, so your audience will learn why what they are learning is important.

Heart Healthy Cooking Demos Made Easy

The recently released 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease recommends a healthy plant-based or Mediterranean-like diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, lean vegetable or animal protein (preferably fish), and vegetable fiber. Sound familiar?

No matter how much people know about heart-healthy eating, the hard part is putting it into practice. Show them how to remake their favorite dishes with a heart-healthy cooking demo.

Why cooking demos? Because we think there’s no better way to get the message across than with food. Show people how to cook, let them taste healthy food, and they’re more likely to try it at home.

Cooking demos are great for:

  • Employee lunch-and-learns
  • Community classes
  • Parent nights at school
  • Health fairs
  • Home school groups
  • Women’s shelters
  • Food pantries
  • Afterschool programs
  • Drug/alcohol rehab
  • Church groups
  • Senior centers

Cooking in front of a crowd may sound daunting, but our Cooking Demo Book and CD Kit will make you look like a Food Network Star. The 300+ page book contains more than 30 lessons plus PowerPoint shows on Recipe Modification and Menu Planning & Shopping Tips.

Each lesson includes:

  • Leader guide
  • Recipes (tested and simple, with easy-to-find, affordable ingredients)
  • Make-ahead & presentation tips
  • Shopping & equipment lists
  • Handouts

For heart-healthy eating, we suggest the lessons on:

  • High fiber
  • Fish
  • Fruits & veggies
  • Hypertension
  • Vegetarian cooking
  • Beans
  • Grains
  • Recipe modification
  • Heart healthy recipes
  • Meet MyPlate

For makeovers, it is always great to show these switches, featured in all of our cooking demo kits:

  • Whole milk to skim milk
  • Butter to olive oil
  • A little grated Parmesan cheese instead of a lot of grated regular cheese like mozzarella or cheddar
  • Adding more veggies for most recipes
  • Lean ground beef or turkey instead of regular ground beef
  • Using more beans instead of meat

You’ll also want to check out our MyPlate Cooking Demo Book & CD, Home Run Cooking Book and Demo Program, and Cooking Demo Toolkit.

Get 15% off all heart health education materials now through the end of March 2019!

Cooking Demo Kitchen Startup Plan

We just received a question from a reader about how to start a cooking demonstration program.

Which cooking equipment do you recommend for doing cooking demos?

Our best advice? KISS – Keep it short and simple. For 2 reasons:

1) You need to use what consumers are using in their own kitchens so they walk away with an ‘I can do this’ attitude. While a copper gas stove is entertaining on the Food Network, a simple kitchen setup is better for consumers who want to learn to cook healthy. Use equipment they already have and what you are used to using yourself!

2) Simple is just better for speaking and working in front of a live audience in a demo kitchen atmosphere.

Two pieces are in our ‘must-have’ category:

Stove top burner – can be portable and powered by electricity or propane/butane (make sure you have adequate ventilation for gas

Microwave – this is a must for us and we have done demos using just a microwave – you can cook anything in it – even pasta in boiling water if you must – we have even baked a cake in one! And we actually prefer to have 2 microwaves in a demo kitchen (and even our own kitchen) so you can keep moving and keep the audience interested.

But most important is that it is easy to cook vegetables and even fruits in a microwave!

Vegetables cook fast and with little water in a microwave so they retain better color, texture and nutrients. There is less mess when using a microwave for steaming and you can often cook, serve and store the items in the same glass dish.

Of course a real range with a stove and oven is even better.

There are three more pieces of cooking equipment that are important for teaching healthier cooking, in our opinion:

  • crockpot – because you can demo beans and soups – those cook without attendance time and make it easy for today’s time-pressed consumer to prepare these items on a regular basis
  • pressure cooker or instant-pot because it cooks many things in 10 minutes or less including soups, potatoes, vegetables, grains, protein, and some legumes (many legumes cook in 20 minutes or less with no soaking needed!
  • a rice cooker – we find this item makes cooking brown rice so easy that people are inclined to do them over and over and over. And you can cook other whole grains in it. The best part about a rice cooker is that it cooks rice and other grains perfectly and you don’t have to stand over a stove stirring. You set it and forget it.

Finally, here are a few more things you shouldn’t forget:

  • New cutting boards and wet paper towels to stick them to the table – we prefer white plastic cutting boards or bendable boards that can go in the dishwasher when done
  • Sharp knives
  • Containers, cups and bags to put pre-measured ingredients – no one wants to watch you measure everything – have it ready to go
  • Multiple cooking utensils, measuring cups and spoons (have enough so you don’t have to wash anything while doing your demo)
  • Rubber scrapers
  • Peelers
  • Can openers
  • Platters for display
  • Cups/plates/napkins/utensils for taste samples

And our ‘nice-to-have’ equipment list for really wonderful meals and finishing touches:

  • toaster oven – to roast asparagus, nuts, whole grain bread, oven fried potatoes, tomatoes (great for a kitchen that doesn’t have an oven)
  • food processor – for salsa, roasted marinara sauce
  • mixer – if you are going to be baking or making mashed potatoes
  • hand held immersion blender – wonderful for creamy vegetable soups

Where would we go to buy equipment and small wares?

Walmart or other discount stores, department store sales, Amazon or a local restaurant supply store. We have picked up very nice items on Amazon and enjoy reading everyone’s reviews.

How can you set up a small room for client cooking education:

Consider a portable “island” cart that has wheels, a counter top, and drawers and cabinets. You can use it for storage when not teaching classes. And it can be pushed out to become the demo table for class time. Just make sure you lock the wheels so it stays put while cooking. If you are teaching an interactive class be sure to have a few work stations and to split your group into teams of 2 to 4 so they can each make a recipe. It is always good to give each group a different recipe because they will learn everything by doing it and observing others.


Impact of Cooking and Home Food Preparation Interventions

Impact of Cooking and Home Food Preparation Interventions Among Adults: Outcomes and Implications for Future Programs

As food and nutrition professionals and public health educators, we recognize the importance of knowing our way around the kitchen to improve health.  We recognize that eating meals away from home increases calorie, fat and sodium intake and reduces fiber, vitamin and mineral consumption. ( 1 ) But how do we convey the need for cooking interventions to the populations that need them most or potential funders of such programs? Despite the popularity of cooking shows, food magazines, and social media sites devoted to food and cooking, what does the research say about their impact on patient compliance or healthful behavior?

A recent study published in the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior reviewed studies conducted from January 1980 to December, 2011. The review looked at how effective interventions were that included cooking and home food preparation. Outcome measures included nutritional intake, knowledge/skills, attitudes toward cooking, self-efficacy/confidence and health outcomes such as BMI, changes in lipids and PSA in one randomized cooking trial with prostate cancer survivors as subjects.

Of the 373 journal articles and 85 educational materials identified, there were 28 appropriate studies identified; 12 that had a control group, 6 as nonrandomized and 6 randomized.  In 5 studies, postintervention was provided, pre- and postintervention was done for 23 studies and 15 studies included information beyond postintervention. Both qualitative and quantitative outcomes pointed to a positive effect on main outcomes, but due to the lack of rigorous study designs, different study populations and non-validated evaluation tools used, stronger conclusions could not be drawn.

Some of the more successful studies showing positive impact included pre, post and beyond post intervention. Questionnaires including eating style, pre VS post nutrition education, cooking skills and changes in dietary intake and behavior were used in several studies.  Populations varied from U.S. university students, Aboriginal people, South Asian community members and Head Start parents.  Nineteen of the studies reviewed looked at the effect of cooking classes on dietary intake.  Although study designs were variable, 16 of the studies showed a positive impact on food consumption.

In one study of 212 Urban, African American women in a 20-week intervention group, those that attended a minimum of 5 classes reduced total calories and calories from fat at posttest and follow up. (2) In another study of women treated for breast cancer, 12 monthly cooking classes, use of newsletters and nutrition counseling calls resulted in increased intake of fruits and vegetables, average fiber intake and reduced fat consumption. (3) A study by McMurray, et. al. found that 12-13 monthly nutrition classes taught by registered dietitians resulted in reductions in total and LDL cholesterol in individuals with hypercholesterolemia. (4)

Bottom line:

While there is not a lot of high quality studies on cooking interventions the ones that are successful teach multiple classes. A minimum of 5 classes seems to be a successful format. Perhaps weekly or monthly classes over an extended period of time can be the most helpful. Adding newsletters and phone calls appears to be helpful.

Nutrition and health professionals can find recipes for cooking demos online at https://foodandhealth.com. There is a category for recipes designed specifically for cooking demos https://foodandhealth.com/recipes.php/category/8/cooking-demo/. Additionally more resources including books about cooking demos and tool sets are found at http://nutritioneducationstore.com

Grants for school gardens, cooking classes and cafeterias can be found at http://www.beginningfarmers.org/grants-for-school-gardens-curriculum-cafeteria-cooking-classes/. Finally, www.grantwatch.com is a catch all site you can search to find food and nutrition grants in your backyard.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD

If you really want to polish your skills consider one of our books, a salad theme, or our new upcoming webinar, 10 Successful Strategies for Cooking Demonstrations. Got a question? Ask us!


Ngyun, B. Powell, L.  The impact of restaurant consumption among US adults: effects on energy and nutrient intakes.  Public Health Nutrition, Volume 17, Issue 11 November 2014, pp. 2445-2452

Shankar, S., Klassen, A.C., Garrett-Mayer, E. et al. Evaluation of a nutrition education intervention for women residents of Washington, DC, public housing communities. Health Educ Res. 2006; 22: 425–437

Newman, V.A., Thomson, C.A., Rock, C.L…., and For the women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) Study Group. Achieving substantial changes in eating behavior among women previously treated for breast cancer—an overview of the intervention. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005; 105: 382–391

McMurry, M.P., Hopkins, P.N., Gould, R. et al. Family-oriented nutrition intervention for a lipid clinic population. J Am Diet Assoc. 1991; 91: 57–65

2018 Cooking Demo Ideas

Do you have an audience who needs to eat more fruits, vegetables, and legumes? Perhaps they have picky tastes or they do not know how to cook and plan meals? Or maybe they love to cook and they are looking to you for inspiration and healthy eating ideas? Whatever the cause, a cooking demo is a great way to help people learn to eat healthfully. They can be used as part of a wellness program, for marketing a program, or in a classroom setting. You don’t even have to heat anything you can make salads, snacks, and desserts without cooking. Of course you can also go hog wild and cook a few dishes or meals.

Chances are you have a few favorite dishes and cooking techniques that others will want to learn. There is a reason why most parties end up in a kitchen! But if you want some great ideas you are in luck! Here are new ideas for 2018 for fabulous cooking demonstrations.

InstantPot – I have a friend who likes to work very hard and very late in her dental practice. She is a total foodie who loves to cook so she is not giving it up but she is doing it faster! She actually owns two InstantPots and is cooking all of her meals in them. On the day that I visited her kitchen she was slowly cooking a turkey breast in one and a soup in another one. It is all about hands free, fast cooking.

Salad – Develop your own delicious salad using local seasonal ingredients. It could be fun to assemble and prep a bunch of salad fixings and allow people to come up and make their own concoction. Or maybe you want to have a salad challenge on your social media channels.

Dessert – everyone loves dessert. Why not make up some great fruit desserts? Our favorite is banana split with fresh bananas, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and toasted nuts. Or you can make a fruit soup with blended fresh fruits. And if you really want something clever consider our all-time classic apples with Greek yogurt, honey, and toasted nuts!

Bean tour – what can they do with canned and dried beans? Why not have a bean bootcamp to make soups, chili dishes, dips, and salads using canned and or dried beans? These cook really fast in a pressure cooker or InstantPot and canned are always easy, too. Our favorite lentils cook in just 20 minutes without soaking.

Equipment – maybe you are a total foodie and have some really neat well-vetted equipment or tools that are very useful. You could have a day where you review equipment and how to use it. Of course this could be as simple as a peeler, knives, and a cutting board. Or it could add in InstantPots, microplane graters, Japanese mandolins, food processors, and a variety of steamers. Or maybe it is all about what a rice steamer can do? or how to wash greens in a lettuce spinner?

Local foods – Did you know that millenials are fast becoming part of an $8 billion local food industry? Check out local foods at various markets and farmer’s markets and show how to make what is in season right now.

Regardless of your topic, don’t forget your audience’s skills, culture and budget and remember to consider what your facility looks like. But most importantly be yourself and don’t worry that your ideas and skills won’t impress. Each person has a unique way of cooking and everyone loves to learn a new idea or way of doing things in the kitchen.

If you really want to polish your skills consider one of our books, a salad theme,

or our new upcoming webinar, 10 Successful Strategies for Cooking Demonstrations.

Got a question? Ask us!