<< Why is eating healthy so hard?

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Katy Atkiss and Andres Chopin, 18, of RootDown LA talked to Ernesto (right) about easy ways to eat right.

I talked to Andres Chopin, 18, and Katy Atkiss to learn more about food. Katy is a co-founder of RootDown LA, a program at Jefferson High that teaches students about nutrition and cooking. Andres joined RootDown this school year.

Ernesto Pineda, 18, Animo Film & Theatre Charter Arts HS: What have you learned so far from this program?

Andres Chopin, 18, Jefferson HS: Try to eat your veggies. In this program you learn how to make them taste better in simple ways that anybody can learn how to do.

Ernesto: What makes this group different from what people usually tell you about eating healthy?

Andres: This group gets you involved in eating healthy. They don’t just tell you, they teach you how to cook and how to make your veggies taste better. There’s a big difference between someone just telling you “eat your veggies because it’s good” and a teen telling you, you should eat your veggies and this is a way to make them taste better and go with some other things.

Ernesto: How did you take the initiative to eat healthy?

Andres: Since I joined the program sometimes I fix myself a salad to go with my meal. Since I started eating healthier again I eat more fruits than I used to, I exercise more.

Ernesto: What am I going to cook? I don’t know anything about cooking.

Andres: You can blanche broccoli for a few minutes in [boiling] water with salt. It makes the broccoli taste better instead of bitter when you eat it raw. The blanching changes the flavor, and the texture too. Instead of being crunchy it’s a little softer when you eat it. You have to put salt in too. It brings out the flavor in the broccoli. You can get it with your two fingers, two pinches, and throw it in the water. It’s going to bring out the flavor in the vegetable that you’re eating. When you eat a vegetable you get nutrients that the vegetable has, like vitamins, instead of eating a potato chip. Because they’re processed, they have things that are bad for you but you don’t notice because potato chips taste good.

Ernesto: I don’t like cucumbers.

Andres: You can put salt on them to bring out the flavor, and lemon. It’s an acid that helps your body digest other things.

Ernesto: What am I supposed to look for on food labels?

Andres: What you’re looking for is to recognize most of the ingredients on the list. If you don’t recognize more than three, then you shouldn’t buy it because it’s not good for you, it’s not healthy.

Katy Atkiss: There’s two methods to eating healthy. One would be choosing healthier processed foods, like Sun Chips or Kettle Chips. These processed foods don’t have any of these additives that are bad for you but they don’t have the nutrients that whole foods have that are good for you. The other option is eating whole foods, which is where you’re really going to get all your nutrients. The color of the whole food is determined by the nutrients it has in it. So if you eat a bunch of different colors you get a bunch of different nutrients.

Katy (to Andres): What are easy recipes that we’ve done that people can make at home with common ingredients?

Andres: Quesadillas. You can chop spinach and put it in the quesadilla. It melts together with the cheese and people can’t get it out so they’re forced to eat the quesadilla with spinach in it. Or you can sauté onions. Put a small amount of olive oil in a pan, then chop the onion. Put the onion in the pan and move the pan until the onion starts to get brown. This brings out the sugar in the onion. We add zucchini and bell peppers. You can add any vegetables that you can sauté, which is pretty much all of them. And there you go, you have an easy snack.