Posted by Kristen Pufahl

kristen's kitchen participantsI am a registered dietitian and began giving my Kristen's Kitchen workshops at 89 Pearl St in Malden in March of 2012. Participation has grown each month for this combination hands-on cooking and nutrition program. Residents enjoy preparing and tasting many simple, healthy dishes that cost $2 or less per serving – cheaper than the average fast food meal – while learning about topics such as heart-healthy fats, whole grains, and how to eat a lower-salt diet.

When I arrive at "The Pearl" 45 minutes before Kristen's Kitchen is scheduled to start, several residents already sit waiting for me. "What are we making today?" they ask. I tell them it's a whole wheat couscous and fruit dish, and an animated discussion begins about what couscous is, where to buy it, and how to use it. Their enthusiasm is catching, and I am torn between trying to set up the workshop and joining their conversation.

As a result of Kristen's Kitchen, residents are trying many new foods, such as whole wheat tortillas, avocados, black beans, and edamame (soybeans). They are also eager to implement their new nutrition knowledge into their everyday lives. It was gratifying to hear one resident tell me "I love the healthy chicken salad recipe you taught us. I make it all the time now instead of buying it at the store."

Kristen's Kitchen, funded in part by a grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation, is a monthly group that addresses healthy eating and social connection which are among the most powerful interventions for improving older adults' chances of remaining independent and engaged. It stems from a collaboration between JF&CS Nutrition Services and Aging Well at Home. Elders, particularly those who live alone and on fixed incomes, are at risk for poor nutrition.

kristen pufahlKristen Pufahl, a licensed registered dietitian, is the JF&CS Nutrition Services Program Manager and the coordinator of Healthy JF&CS, the agency's employee wellness program. She also teaches at Boston University and is on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association. Kristen was named the Massachusetts Young Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2012.