Food in the Time of Coronavirus

By Katy Bowen, MS, RDN, LD

During this unprecedented time, many families find themselves suddenly cooking more at home. While cooking at home has plenty of benefits, meal preparation can feel like an added burden during self-isolation. Parents and caregivers are now balancing work, childcare, homeschooling, housework, and providing 3 meals plus snacks for their families each day—all while in close quarters!

Let’s get real for a minute, this is not the time to be hyper-focused on ensuring that our children eat every color of the rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day. Grocery store shelves may be bare, making that challenge near impossible. Instead, shift your focus to making fun “quarantine cuisine” while incorporating a few nutritious options. Whether you use canned, frozen, or fresh fruits and vegetables, aim to incorporate at least one of these food groups with every meal. Learn more about the benefits of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables in this blog.

Do you feel like you’re in the kitchen all day cooking and cleaning? Get your whole family in the kitchen to make meal prep easier! You can even involve your children in planning out your meals. MyPlate is a helpful tool for planning your meals. Choose low-fat milk and cheese; eat a variety of grains, especially whole grain bread, pasta, and brown rice; vary your protein by eating plant protein along with lean animal protein; and try to eat at least five fruits and vegetables each day.

Use the chart below for some helpful suggestions as you adapt the ways you cook and eat at home:

Instead of: Try this: Link:
Offering fresh fruit at every snack Enjoy a smoothie with frozen fruit Recipe here
Giving your children candy as a reward Treat your family’s sweet tooth to our Mini Fruit Tartlets Recipe here
Drinking plain water Get creative with a daily infused water Recipe here
Offering chips at snack time  Make your own Trail Mix with your family Recipe here
Cereal for breakfast Try one of our delicious, wholesome breakfast options Recipe here
Sandwiches for lunch Mix it up with Sandwich Sushi Recipe here
Running out of tasty recipes to make with your pantry staples? Check out these CHEF-Approved recipes using rice, beans, and other staples! Three Bean Chili

Arroz con Pollo  
Can’t exercise outdoors? Discover fun activities your whole family can do on YouTube You Are What You Eat Dance

Greece Cultural Dance  

Garden Yoga
Need new recipe ideas? Search our recipes for healthy inspiration! Recipes can be narrowed down by special diet and type of recipe. Recipes here 

Have a nutrition or culinary question for CHEF? Use our Ask a Dietitian tool here.     

CHEF Teaching Kitchen: Bringing Families Together

by Matt Sirgo
Downtown San Antonio
May 11, 2018

“We learn new things every time we come here,” says Donelle Tedder, student of the Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) Teaching Kitchen at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. “Yeah, the best thing I could cook before was cereal,” jokes her sister Dalia. CHEF Program Director Maria Palma explains that the family dynamic of the classes is purposeful. “It’s all centered around healthy food,” she explains, “But it’s really about family bonding and growth together.” When families participate in healthy cooking together, they develop good habits that improve the health of the household.

“Man I put all this hard work into it. That means it’s going to taste twice as good,” says Donelle. When she was diagnosed with “new onset” diabetes, her doctor referred her to the CHEF program to make sure she had the tools to maintain a healthy diet.

Today she, her mother Debbie, her sister Dalia and two other families are making burger bites and trail mix, just two of many healthy recipes they’ve learned at CHEF. The instructor for this lesson, Maria Palma, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and former nutritionist for the San Antonio Food Bank.

The CHEF team at the Children’s Hospital Teaching Kitchen includes Medical Director Dr. Julie La Barba, Nutrition Education Specialist Celina Parás, Program Coordinator Rebecca Vance, and Chef/Program Director Maria Palma.

This all started in 2015 when, in response to skyrocketing obesity and diabetes rates in the community, the Goldsbury Foundation and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio partnered together to create a childhood nutrition initiative.

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Health Official: San Antonio’s High Obesity Rate ‘Not a Factory Defect’

by Roseanna Garza
Rivard Report
May 10,2018

In order to keep San Antonio healthy and thriving for another 300 years, the community must address the epidemic of childhood obesity that has had a devastating impact both on the city and the state, local health leaders said Wednesday.

“Childhood obesity is preventable through community education and action,” said Linda Hook, assistant professor of nursing at the University of the Incarnate Word. “As our great city celebrates its 300th anniversary, [we aim] to address childhood obesity in an effort to raise awareness and positively impact quality of life.”

More than 50 community members gathered at Holy Spirit Hall on the city’s Eastside for a panel discussion to review the local prevalence of childhood obesity, what is being done, and what can be done to address issues, trends, and solutions.

The prevalence of obesity continues to rise in San Antonio. In 2014, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported that 71 percent of adults in Bexar County were overweight or obese. Of children aged 10-17 in Bexar County in 2013, 27 percent of black and Hispanic children were obese, as were 12 percent of white children, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As rates continue to increase across the state, Texas could be faced with a vastly overweight population – nearly 75 percent – by the year 2040, according to the Department of State Health Services.

Arming people with “helpful, healthful” information about how food customs, food choices, and related health issues impact future well-being is essential to improving public health and quality of life, said Hook, the panel moderator.

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CHOSA Sizzles Through Healthy Innovations

by Christina Acosta
La Prensa
March 7, 2018

The Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHOSA) celebrated their Innovation Award with a healthy cooking demonstration.

The award was presented at the annual Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference in Napa, California this month. The award recognizes the nation’s leading health professional training programs providing innovative nutrition, physical activity and obesity counseling education to their students.

Parents and children had the opportunity to look at Maria Palma, program director and chef at the CHEF program, make a vegetable frittata and Greek yogurt with fruit. For Palma, it is very important to include the most essential cooking skills that families need to have and recipes needed to go along with those cooking skills.

“We teach families how to cook with cauliflower rice instead of white rice, just whole wheat flour instead of white flour,” said Palma. “We believe that they are small changes will lead to bigger improvements. My philosophy is to help to educate others.”

Statistics show fewer than 30 percent of medical schools meet the minimum number of hours of education in nutrition and exercise science recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. While 94 percent of physicians agree nutritional counseling should be a part of a patient visit, only 14 percent of doctors feel they have adequate training to do so.

Since CHEF’s launch in 2015, the program has offered culinary medicine training in a teaching kitchen to physicians, registered dietitians, allied health professionals, hospital associates, patients and their caregivers. Classes are led by a specially trained team, where they teach basic nutrition and practical cooking skills to eat away diet-related diseases.

To date, CHEF has provided hands-on culinary medical training to more than 160 physicians. In turn, physicians have made more than 730 clinical referrals to the CHEF program at the hospital. CHEF at The Children’s Hospital is part of a larger CHEF network of community teaching kitchens in San Antonio, made possible with funding from Goldsbury Foundation.

Recognizing that physicians receive virtually no formal nutrition education and no training in healthy cooking, CHEF is a uniquely valuable resource for health care providers committed to stemming the tide of diet-related diseases. CHEF trains and certifies physicians and other medical providers in culinary medicine so they may incorporate CHEF teachings into their practice.

“We want doctors to understand that this is not only available to their patients, but also a tool to use as a part of their intervention,” said CHOSA medical director Dr. Julie La Barba, FAAP. “Most doctors in this hospital don’t have an hour to spend for on food, so they create a jump off point with patients and say they want them to go to the teaching kitchen and they prescribe that.”

According to North Dakota State University, family meals allow parents an opportunity to be aware of and monitor their children’s moods, behaviors and activities with friends. Parents know what their kids are doing, who they are with and where and when their activities are taking place.

Family meals make a positive impact on young children’s language acquisition and literacy development. Family meals furnish a daily opportunity for a parent or sibling to speak to an infant or toddler, and help them learn words, understand language and build conversation.

There is wide-ranging evidence that family meals are an important “protective factor” in the lives of children and teenagers. Family meals are associated with a variety of positive outcomes that improve child well-being. These include a decreased risk of substance use or delinquency, heightened personal and social well-being, and better academic performance.

Anna Gafford, along with her eight and 12 year old daughters, are on their third class with CHEF and enjoying new options for the dinner table. Her daughter Diana was referred to the program after going through speech therapy for feeding issues.

This program has given Diana not only the opportunity to try two new vegetables, but also creates a sense of independence  and ownership of her family’s health.

“I think in all we are excited that they are giving more options and expanding their palettes in different ways and so for us that is a big deal,” said Anna Gafford. “It was quite successful and there were some textures that she did not adapt it to yet. She had previously refused the process of being responsible for herself and has expanded her palette.”

For more information about the program, visit

Students’ Culinary Outlook Blossoms at Botanical Garden

by NEISD Media Team
February 28, 2018

North East ISD’s health and wellness student leaders jumped on a bus and headed to San Antonio’s own Botanical Garden on Feb. 28. The student team is part of K-SHAC or the Kids School Health Advisory Committee, led by Rachel Naylor, director of physical education and health at NEISD. The visit served as a great opportunity for the students to learn about gardening and horticulture, and the importance of incorporating that knowledge in the kitchen.

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Celina Parás Recognized as Young Dietitian of the Year

Congratulations to CHEF Dietitian, Celina Parás, for being awarded the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year by Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics! Celina, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Texas Educator, has a passion for child nutrition and culinary medicine. She does a phenomenal job teaching CHEF at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio where she helps patients make the connection between food and health.

CHEF named winner of the 2018 Innovation Award for Healthcare Provider Training and Education

We are honored to announce that CHEF was named the winner of the 2018 Innovation Award for Healthcare Provider Training and Education by The Alliance for a Healthier Generation! Check out the link below to learn more about how we, in partnership with The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, are making a difference in our community.

Read full news release from The Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Read Interview with Suzanne Mead Feldmann, Chief Executive Officer of Culinary Health Education for Families

San Antonio Botanical Garden Blossoms with new features during grand reopening

By Hannah Phillips
Culture Map San Antonio
October 20, 2017

The San Antonio Botanical Garden is in full bloom. On October 21-22, the garden will unveil the first phase of an anticipated 8-acre expansion, complete with new gardens, education centers, and a garden-to-table experience. Before the grand opening celebration, let’s take a look at what’s new for the growing garden.

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San Antonio Botanical Garden grows a side of delicious at new culinary garden

By Paul Stephen

San Antonio Express-News

October 16, 2017

Dave Terrazas is living a chef’s farm-to-table dream. His domain includes a 34-bed culinary garden, state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen and technology-rich classroom space, all part of the expansion at San Antonio Botanical Garden. Swiss chard, lettuce, a handful of edible flowers and other autumnal staples are at his fingertips right now. And then there’s the quinoa.  “You don’t normally see quinoa in gardens like this,” Terrazas said. “Across the entire garden, we have over 192 edible specimens (of fruits and vegetables).”

Quinoa is native to the Andes Mountains, long a staple crop for Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and other South American countries. It’s enjoyed a tremendous rise in popularity thanks in large part to its wholesome nutritional profile. And — who knew? — it grows in San Antonio, as well. Terrazas already has plans for threshing the harvest and incorporating it into a class.

And he’ll have plenty of opportunity.The facilities will host a wide range of food-and nutrition-centric classes via a partnership with the Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program funded by the Goldsbury Foundation.

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New Growth Blooms at the San Antonio Botanical Garden

By Steve Bennett
San Antonio Express-News
October 16, 2017

If color brands like “bandana cherry,” “solar flare” and “brake lights” make you think of car finishes or fingernail polish, think again. These are the warm tints of perennials — a variety of lantana, tecoma and red yucca, respectively — that are the flowering foundation of the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s 8-acre, $22 million expansion, opening next Saturday. The expansion, which was some 30 years in the making, reflects a new emphasis on interactivity at the garden, and new features include a grand entryway off of North New Braunfels Avenue, upgraded ticketing and educational facilities, an expanded gift shop and, perhaps most exciting, a culinary garden with an outdoor kitchen — all designed and constructed with the landscape, rather than buildings, as “the star of the show.”

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Education and Empowerment Lead the Charge in The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s Battle Against Childhood Obesity

By Tiffany Parnell
MD News San Antonio
September 22, 2017

The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s innovative Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program combats childhood and adolescent obesity through education that combines the science of nutrition with the art of cooking.

Texas childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Data compiled from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey reveals that approximately 31 percent of Texas high school students are overweight or obese.

The statewide incidence rate of childhood and adolescent obesity is similar to what physicians observe on a regional level. As many as one in three school-age youths in San Antonio are overweight or obese, according to Julie La Barba, MD, FAAP, Medical Director of CHEF and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

Because overweight and obese children are more likely to remain obese during adulthood and often develop comorbid conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, preventing and addressing obesity throughout childhood is crucial to maintaining optimal health across the lifespan.

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Program Teaches Children to Cook — and Eat — Well

San Antonio Express News July 19, 2017 – by Richard Marini

Tiny finger sandwiches of watermelon and feta cheese, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with a mint leaf. These are likely not something most of the 7-year-old members of the Kangaroo team at the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Antonio have ever eaten.

But after making and taste-tasting these summertime snacks, many of the pint-size reviewers said they liked it — sort of.

Makayla Garza, for example, gave the dish two oily thumbs up. “The olive oil and cheese make it good,” she said.

Sebastian Casanova felt the same way, with a caveat. “I like it, but there’s too much olive oil,” he complained.

As for Adric Rivas, he ignored the watermelon, the dressing and the mint leaves and ate only the feta, adding, incongruously, “I didn’t like the cheese too much.”

The kids were part of the Culinary Health Education for Families program at the Boys & Girls Clubs clubhouse on Ralph Avenue in the Lone Star neighborhood. Funded by a half-million dollar grant from the Goldsbury Foundation and launched June 12, the program teaches club members the basics of nutrition and that healthy food is not only tasty but also easy and fun to make.

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