Food for Yoopers: A healthy approach to better food behaviors

Positively U.P.

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Making small changes to encourage healthier eating and changing behaviors when it comes to food. That is the focus of a program in Marquette called Food for Yoopers.

Evan Loukusa, MD, resident of the Marquette Family Medicine Residency Program, said he wanted to help people take the first steps towards a healthier life.

“One of my goals when I was thinking of creating this program, I wanted to make this something where the information was really accessible to people. I wanted to help them understand and get a hold of to make some behavior changes that they want to do, but don’t really know where to start.”

Loukusa went on to talk about some of the hurdles that get in the way of a healthier diet. “There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about healthy food. One being that healthy food has to be expensive or that it has to be complex or take a lot of time, or that it has to include a lot of weird ingredients that aren’t available at a store near me.”

With his idea, he found support and partnerships from Upper Peninsula Health Plan, The Marquette Food Co-op, Superior Health Foundation, UP Health System – Marquette and faculty physicians Lisa Long, MD and Tyson Luoma, DO, the program aims to teach meal planning, cooking techniques and education designed to promote healthy lifestyles.

“So many of us are familiar with the phenomenon of the New Year’s resolution where you’re out of the gym by March. That phenomenon sets us up for this emotional feeling of, ‘I keep failing’ and this learned helplessness.” Loukusa continued, “Behavior change on a small scale is reachable for all of us.”

Working to make a positive change, the 9-week program uses materials from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and other resources. Nutritional education and health coaching are included in the program to help boost participant’s confidence in how to maintain their own health.

A large part of the course involves the Marquette Food Co-Op. Amanda Latvala is the education coordinator and registered dietitian at the co-op. Cooking classes have been a large part of the co-op’s DNA.

“We’ve really been wanting to do a program like this for a long time. It’s one thing to have all these wonderful cooking classes. We’re not always making the healthiest foods. We have a pizza class.” Latvala continued, “But we want to show folks that even with our healthier foods, there’s a way to make that delicious. It’s something that you look forward to when you come home. We want to make it quick, easy, cost effective. Those are all true hallmarks of our cooking classes here.”

If one goal is to eat more vegetables, how do you do it in a way where people want to eat them and do it on a consistent basis?

“It’s been showing people that eating healthy doesn’t mean boring, bland food. It was my goal to show the participants that it’s one thing to know how to purchase the food. It’s another thing to bring it home and prepare it, and prepare it so it tastes good to you and your family.”

Latvala says one of the easiest dishes to win over people who are hesitant to add some veggies is to roast them.

“If we toss some olive oil over them, throw some spices on them, and roast them up, they caramelize. Then you can add your cooked grain or your cooked rice. Maybe a little salty bite from some feta cheese and we can make a salad out of it.”

Latvala says the goal is to take the intimidation factor out of ingredients. “So that’s really fun when you can see someone who’s been chopping onions their whole life and never knew how to do it like that. I can show them a way that will make you have less tears.”

The program costs $300 and scholarships are available. To be placed on a wait list for the next program, call UPHS-Marquette Family Medicine at: 906-449-1010. Food for Yoopers is open to the public, adults and children accompanied by an adult are welcome.

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