The United States Department of Agriculture recommends at least two servings of seafood each week, but most Americans are not coming close. About 80-90 percent of U.S. consumers do not meet the recommendations. One-third of the population eats seafood once a week; about one-half occasionally includes seafood in their diets, while some never do. Low-income individuals tend to have the lowest seafood intake.
Price, access, dislike for seafood, and lack of knowledge of how to prepare seafood are often as deterrents for use. Seafood contains high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, and other chronic conditions. Eating seafood may also improve memory and prevent the onset of dementia.
As a result of these benefits, the Clark County Cooperative Extension collaborated with Clark County Community Services, Clark Regional Hospital and the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP) to implement Eating Heart Healthy; an interactive four-week, cooking and nutrition workshop designed for low income audiences in Clark County who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease .
What We Did
Community Services advertised and registered participants from their family enrollments. Clark Regional Hospital tested the Omega-3 index level measurements before the program began so participants could track their progress. Clark Regional provided a dietitian to teach about heart health and nutrition and the Clark County Extension Agent implemented the 4-week hands on cooking segment.
Recipes from SNP and the University of Kentucky were adapted to be easy to read and to incorporate available, affordable ingredients. Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Gluten Free Grilled Tilapia Tacos, Apple Harvest Salad with Popcorn Shrimp, and Salmon Burgers were prepared. The tuna salad was well accepted but the grilled tilapia tacos and popcorn shrimp salad stretched participants to try different combinations of food that were not familiar to them. Participants received a cooking incentive (canned foods) at the end of each session to encourage them to try the recipes at home.
The Final Cook-off
Participants were divided into three kitchens and given a box of supplies for salmon burgers for a “cook-off”. Kitchen 1 used a gas stove, minimal amount of cooking oil, canned salmon with liquid, bones, and skin. Kitchen 2 used an electric range, cooking spray, drained canned salmon, with bones and skin removed. Kitchen 3 used an electric range, cooking oil, drained canned salmon, skin and bones removed, with added shredded cheese, minced onion and garlic, and a cookie cutter to cut their salmon uniformly. Upon completion, each kitchen’s dish was judged on appearance and taste. All participants sampled each dish and comments were made on how much easier it was to eat something good for you when you could make different recipes with it. Kitchen 3 was given the award for “best taste.”
Source of photos above: Jennifer Austin, Clark County FCS Agent
To complete the Seafood Nutrition Partnership Eating Heart Healthy program, a reunion will be held in approximately 3 months to determine whether the increased awareness about the nutritional benefits of seafood consumption improved health. Participants’ Omega-3 index will be reassessed to determine if intake of seafood increased after the intervention. Additionally, low income groups generally lack the time needed to commit to long interventions. As such, we also plan to test the use of a one-session format in increasing the consumption of seafood among a low-income population in Lexington, Kentucky. Can low income audiences obtain the same health benefits with shorter educational sessions? This will be the main focus of our next intervention. It is likely that shorter sessions, if effective, will result in a cost savings that can be used for marketing or to cover other program costs for low income audiences. We look forward to sharing best practice guidelines.