It looked like fried chicken. It crunched like fried chicken.
But this chicken was coated with crushed cheese crackers and baked in the oven. The result: the home-made equivalent of fast food crispy chicken strips, with half the fat and one-third fewer calories.
Fresh fast food was on the menu during the recent 10-week Christiana Care Cardiovascular Outreach Prevention Program (COPP), an initiative that promotes heart-healthy diets and lifestyles for women.
“All the dishes prepared in the session can be made easily at home, with ingredients already on kitchen shelves,” says Sonya Feinberg Addo, healthy lifestyle coordinator.
Teens enrolled in Christiana Care’s Camp FRESH were encouraged to participate in the program and invite an important woman in their lives—their mom, an aunt, a grandmother, a family friend—to also take the courses, held at the Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute at Pelleport.
The program is designed to teach healthy foods and lifestyle choices to teens, and to empower them to take those messages home. Delaware currently ranks 43 out of 50 states in deaths due to heart disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That is due, in part, to the fact that Delaware women are more likely to be obese, smoke, or have diabetes.
The program provides screenings for cardiovascular disease, including blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar and cholesterol. Activities focus on nutrition, exercise and stress management. The program is supported by a grant from the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation’s Connections for Cardiovascular HealthSM program.
Those topics are of great interest to Joyce LeGrand of New Castle. She is 48 and suffers from congestive heart failure.
“My cardiologist is after me to lose weight, so I am happy to learn about foods with less fat,” she says.
Meals prepared by the teens and Christiana Care registered dieticians gave diners the chance to taste and evaluate alternatives to typical fast food. An Asian salad from a popular fast food restaurant has 430 calories and 17 grams of fat and costs $6.29 per serving. A similar home-made salad prepared by campers and served to the significant women in their lives weighs in at 266 calories, 6 grams of fat and a price tag of $2.35.
“The difference in the cost of the food also made an impression on me,” LeGrand says.
Jocelyn Smith of Wilmington, 35, cooks for her family during the week but relies on fast food on weekends when she needs to get caught up with other household tasks. Her daughter, Jazzmyn Alexander, is especially fond of fried chicken with mashed potatoes.
On this evening, 13-year-old Jazzmyn tried oven fries, baked with the skins on. The healthy version has 127 calories, 0.2 grams of fat and cost 38 cents to make, compared to restaurant potato wedges, which have 290 calories, 15 grams of fat and cost $1.65.
“The oven fries are way better than french fries,” she says. “And they are easy to make at home.”
After the meal and presentation, the women received nutritional information and recipes for all the dishes to take home.
“We are giving them the tools to provide healthy meals—and get the kids involved, too,” says Kathy Cannatelli, director, Christiana Care’s Center for Community Health, Department of Family and Community Medicine.
Shunida, LeGrand’s 15-year-old daughter, believes her mom also will benefit from the sessions that focus on fitness and life skills.
“My mom has a lot of stress and exercise is very helpful in dealing with that,” she says.
In the spring and the fall, the COPP program is run through four of the high school Wellness Centers that Christiana Care operates in partnership with school districts and the Delaware Division of Public Health, Department of Health and Social Services. Women are recruited by students in the COPP program. During the summer, the program is run through Camp FRESH.
COPP encompasses classes for teens during the day and evening events at PMRI including “Fresh Fast Food,” Stress Management and Zumba Fitness. Teens and the significant woman in their lives also can work together at home to learn more about cardiovascular health through No Heart Left Behind (NHLB), a web-based education program. As an added incentive, women and teens who complete the course receive a $50 gift card.