March is National Nutrition Month, and what better way to celebrate than to get to know two of our registered dietitians (RDs)! We caught up with Anita Bancroft and Taylor Larosee to learn about their roles, nutrition programs at AHWC and more.
What are your primary responsibilities as an AHWC community programs RD?
Anita Bancroft (AB): I have varying assignments as an AHWC community programs RD, but my primary responsibility involves coordinating and delivering our many programs offered here on campus and virtually. Some of the programs I currently manage include our Culinary Medicine Series and LAB Collaboration, but I assist with all our other programs as well. Another important aspect of my job is the continuous outreach and relationship building between other departments and schools here on campus and maintaining external partnerships.
Taylor Larosee (TL): I work for the community and campus programs team. We collaboratively work together on culinary and wellness programming for students and staff on campus, as well as entities off campus. I currently manage our Caring for the Front Line program, which is a half-day wellness retreat for front line workers at AHWC. I also assist in coordinating CU Eat Well, Culinary Medicine and MIBH programs.
What is your favorite part of your job?
AB: My favorite part of this job is having the opportunity to utilize my culinary arts and dietetics degrees collaboratively. When I decided to pursue dietetics, I was working as a chef and had the desire to teach culinary skills as a tool to help people lead healthy lifestyles, and this is exactly what I get to do in this position! I love being able to combine my nutrition and culinary knowledge each week while delivering different programs.
TL: My favorite part of my job is using cooking to teach people about health. It’s one thing to tell someone what or how they should eat versus giving them the skills to cook, season and experience their food in a different way. We also use recipes that are plant-based and from around the world, which helps to broaden participants’ pallets, as well as my own. This job gives me the opportunity to combine cooking and nutrition, two of my favorite things! Plus, I love all the people I work with.
Can you share a little about our Culinary Medicine, CU Eat Well and LAB Collab programs (who are they for/what they involve)?
AB: Our Culinary Medicine program is for everyone, but this class is free to all AHWC members, CU Anschutz Medical Campus students and CU Wellness Clinic referrals. These classes are taught virtually by our registered dietitians and other guest presenters every Tuesday evening. Recipes are quick and easy to follow and encompass changing categories each week.
Our LAB Collab program is a cooking and nutrition education program built specifically to serve the post-docs, PhD students, professional research assistants and international students on the Anschutz campus. This class is provided in partnership with the Post-Doctoral Association, the Graduate School and the Office of International Affairs. For this class, two of our dietitians lead a one-hour cooking class that features a quick and budget-friendly world vegetarian recipe. The cultural relevance of the recipe, nutrition education and culinary tips are discussed throughout class. We have an ingredient bag pick-up for up for the participants, so they can cook along with us at home.
TL: CU Eat Well is an interactive and informative virtual cooking class for CU Anschutz students on campus. We open the class to 40 participants per class. 20 participants receive pre-made ingredient bags and the remaining 20 students purchase ingredients independently. We coordinate with the campus Food Pantry so that items from our monthly recipe are available if a student may need access to ingredients who did not get an ingredient bag. This also helps us bring awareness to the Food Pantry on campus. We discuss basic cooking skills, budget-friendly and vegetarian recipes, multi-cultural influences for flavor and taste, and nutrition tips.
What do you want participants to gain from joining our cooking programs?
TL: I want participants to understand that eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, complicated or expensive! I love that we teach classes using a variety of flavors, tastes and textures. Exposing people to new ways of thinking about healthy eating habits is fun!
AB: I would like participants to gain nutritional knowledge of various ingredients, as well as culinary techniques they can translate to use in other recipes. I would also like our participants to gain confidence in the kitchen through an increase in their culinary nutrition knowledge and, in some cases, their hands-on experience in the kitchen.
How do you decide which recipes to cook for the programs?
AB: Taylor answered this well, so I will point you to her answer.
TL: We work together as a team to produce recipe ideas. We typically opt for vegetarian recipes to keep them cost effective, as well as focus on multi-cultural influences from across the globe to add variety and flavor. We then recipe-test them and decide which ones will work best. We typically plan ahead six months at a time.
What has been your favorite recipe to cook for a class?
AB: My favorite recipe I have made so far is Shakshuka. I love this one-pot dish and the ability to poach the eggs right in the sauce. This breakfast dish is a great way to start your day off with lots of vegetables and the flavors are incredible!
TL: My favorite recipe we’ve made is roasted tofu in homemade peanut sauce — so easy, delicious and tasty! My favorite dessert is our avocado black bean brownies.
What is some nutrition and/or cooking advice you’d like to share?
AB: Some advice I like to share is to try to have fun with food! Cooking can be intimidating to some people, but if you remember it does not have to be perfect and you can explore different flavors even if the recipe doesn’t say to, the final product will be more enjoyable.
TL: Nutrition and cooking aren’t as scary or as boring as they seem! Try experimenting with new flavors, spices and textures. Even different methods of cooking, like air-frying, can help to spice up healthy options. Focus on having a variety of colors on your plate, plus a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Also, fiber is a dietitian’s favorite “F” word. Adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet will help increase your fiber intake.
Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to fully utilize AHWC’s great teaching and demonstrating kitchens. Have there been any unexpected benefits and/or positives from conducting classes virtually? What are the main challenges?
AB: I think one of the main positives that comes from conducting classes virtually is the ability to have participants become a little more comfortable in their own kitchens. It also increases accessibility to those who might not have the opportunity to drive to the center for a class. It is nice to have participants cooking at home and see their friends and family joining in too, which really increases the social environment around food. One of the main challenges I have seen is technical issues, though I think we have all become experts at Zoom in the last couple of years!
TL: One of the biggest positives I’ve seen is that we’re able to reach a larger number of people per class. Our teaching kitchens have a maximum number of people, virtual classes do not. This allows us to open our classes to much larger groups, which I love! It’s also fewer dishes in the kitchen for virtual classes. The main challenge is not getting the in-person interaction or the ability to meet many of the people we work with. We do miss having students in our kitchen! Luckily, our Caring for the Front Line program is still in person, and we are lucky enough to meet the front line workers who do so much for our community!Learn More About Cooking Classes