by Katherine Moser, Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, Americorps VISTA On a chilly afternoon, thirteen teens from the Alliance Teen Center gathered for a Food Matters Program in Raleigh. Two nutritionists along with one at-home cook prepared a program for the teens to get to know their on-site community garden and make use of what has been growing there. Although the cold air intimidated the teens, they were all interested in venturing outside to see the garden and get their hands dirty. Instructors broke the group in two - one group stayed indoors for a conversation on balanced eating while the other group went on the garden walk. After each group finished, they switched activities so that everyone got to experience both activities.
The garden walkers were introduced to the garden and asked about their personal experience with growing anything from herbs to vegetables. The instructor then showed them the herb plants that they’d be focusing on and harvesting for the activity that followed. At first some teens were hesitant to smell and taste the herbs - mint, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro - but curiosity got the best of them all in the end and they all experimented with the plants and even found some that they enjoyed!
The indoor group discussed their current eating styles and favorite meals, while the nutrition volunteer guided them through suggestions for how to make small changes that would benefit their health in the long run. While at first, the teens were not convinced that changes to their diets would be tasteful, the activity that followed quickly convinced them otherwise.
After the small groups had met and had conversations about the garden and balanced eating habits, all of the teens gathered around two tables to begin the activity - making snacks! Teens at one table used an assortment of herbs from the garden to make their own personal fizzy drinks to take the place of soda! They used seltzer water, 100% juices, fresh juice from citrus fruit wedges, and crushed herbs such as mint and rosemary (recipe below). The second table had their hand at mixing up a Healthy Ranch Dressing (recipe below) dip using low-fat plain Greek yogurt, fresh lemon juice, dried spices, garlic, and fresh herbs from the garden including thyme and rosemary.
Everyone took part in making both snacks and at the end, they all enjoyed their own drink and a plate of the dressing with crackers and cut veggies! One teen said this about the experience,
“You don’t need to always eat unhealthy stuff when you’re surrounded by natural and healthy foods such as plants!”
All of the participants left thanking the volunteers for sharing their knowledge and helping them learn how to make something new!
Healthy Ranch Dressing:
Makes 1 cup
- 1 Cup low fat yogurt
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried celery flakes
- 1 tsp dried dill weed
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk.
- Serve with your favorite sliced veggies.
- Seltzer water
- 100% fruit juice
- Fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon balm, etc
- Fresh fruit slices - citrus: lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, etc
- Fill a large pitcher, ½ juice and ½ seltzer water.
- Rinse and cut citrus fruits. Add juice from squeezed citrus fruits to the pitcher of juice soda.
- Snip mint leaves, rosemary, and other fresh herbs you have. Crush the leaves using your fingers and add them to the pitcher.
- Mix well and add ice before serving.