Purdue extension education Belinda Stepnowski, left, looks on as Denise Walker prepares a meal at her Hobart home Thursday April 25, 2013. Stepnowski's visit is part of a food and nutrtion program offered by the Purdue extension office. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
To learn the guidline for eligibility in the free Purdue University Extension Service Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, call (219) 741-0660.
As a busy working mom, Denise Heino knows the importance of healthy eating in everyday life. Keeping herself, her husband and two-and-a-half year-old twins working at an optimal energy level is an important goal for the Hobart resident.
To that end, she registered for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program offered through Lake County Purdue University Extension Services.
“I was at the Health Fair at the Hobart YMCA when I saw the table offering recipes for kid’s healthy snacks,” Heino said. “That caught my eye, since I’m always looking for something different to give my children.”
After talking with family nutrition advisor Belinda Stepnowski, Heino became aware of the nutrition program and wanted to get on board.
The two ladies are meeting once a week at Heino’s house, for a total of 10 visits.
“Our goal is feeding families better for less,” Stepnowski said. “During our sessions, we talk about food and nutrition topics, do hands-on activities and make tasty, low cost recipes. It feels good to help people change their eating habits, and therefore, their lifestyle.”
One recent visit found the two ladies in Heino’s Hobart kitchen making a Mexican soup. All ingredients, except the fresh chicken, came from cans, which can be very low cost.
“Contrary to what many people think, it isn’t expensive to eat healthy,” Stepnowski added. “But you do need to pay attention to the labels on the cans.”
In the case of the Mexican soup, fat-free low-sodium broth was used, as well as low- or no-salt-added vegetables and other ingredients.
During the visit, Heino’s friend Denise Fuentes stopped by and observed the cooking session.
“This is really nice,” she said of the program. “A lot of people don’t know how to cook healthy, and I’m always looking for better ways to feed my family, especially my 8-year-old daughter.”
She said that she would be looking into the program for herself and her family.
As the soup on Heino’s stove began to simmer, she and Stepnowski looked through a colorful calendar of recipes to decide what they will cook at the next week’s session.
“I’m so impressed with this program,” Heino said. ”I started out with an interest in the kid’s healthy snacks, and I did find many, but I’m also learning so much more — how to give my family nutritious meals without spending a lot of money.”