The Herald Bulletin

April 25, 2013

Getting healthy, together

By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. —  It smells good before you even walk into the room. It’s that simple smell of fresh-cut vegetables. Inside, there’s about a dozen people loading up their dinner plates with a tempting construction of veggies, grains and legumes. They’re all there for one reason — the desire to live a healthy lifestyle.

The meal kicks off every session of Susan and Jesse Landess’ Healthy Beginnings monthlong program. It’s one of the ways participants learn in a hands-on way just what a healthy diet is, and how good it can taste.

Haystacks were on Monday’s menu. Starting with a bed of rice, the Healthy Beginners added beans, lettuce, tomatoes, chopped onions, black olives, guacamole and chipotle dressing.

“Mexican — that’s what it tastes like to me,” said Teresa Carter of Anderson. “It’s awesome.”  

As the actual class time starts, Susan Landess shows participants how to make the featured menu items. Chipotle dressing is based on a faux sour cream made from tofu, cashews, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin. That chipotle nuance comes from sweet onion, bell pepper, cilantro and salt.

Another treat designed to satisfy a sweet tooth is “snowballs” created from left-over whole grain cereal like steel cut oats, along with dried fruit, orange juice concentrate, stevia, vanilla and butterscotch  flavorings, and chopped almonds or pecans. After a little refrigeration, it’s formed into balls and rolled in coconut.

“Legumes, grains, fruits and veggies — that’s the four new food groups,” said Landess. That means no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no processed food. The good news? “We’re not portion controlled.”

After the cooking fun, participants get down to the nitty-gritty of learning about nutrition, processed foods, heart health, labels and more. Armed with information, they’re better prepared to stay committed to their new  healthy choices.

“This is a pretty cool program. It makes you realize just how bad what you are eating that you don’t pay attention to is for you,” said Lisa Lemons of Greenfield. She noted that she’s just one week into the program and she has already lost weight.

That’s a pretty typical response, as it turns out. Healthy weight loss, lowered blood pressure, stabilized blood sugars, and plummeting cholesterol numbers seem to be consistent trends in the program.

Brenda and Paul Maxfield of Anderson are program graduates, back for a refresher.

“We came because we like anything that promotes healthy living,” said Brenda. “The results are so astounding, we had to stick with it. It’s been a fun adventure.” Brenda was able to realize a 45 percent drop in cholesterol levels.

“I was pre-diabetic,” said Paul. “My blood sugar completely normalized.”

Sandy French of Anderson, a returning student, said her first-time results included a loss of 20 pounds, and a 40-some point drop in cholesterol. That’s not to say it’s an easy path to walk.

“It’s such a drastic change for most people,” said Tricia Yost of Middletown, in the program for the first time. Nevertheless, the class provides the support people need to move ahead making healthy changes in their diets, and participants start seeing results right away.

Landess is a health educator and registered nurse, the former director of Indiana Healthy Choices. The Healthy Beginnings volunteer-led program is offered a couple of times a year. For more information, call 765-621-7557 or 765-759-9937.