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Thousand Islands students get dished healthy eating advice

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CAPE VINCENT — Sounds of disappointment shuddered through the auditorium when children promised delicious food were told there would be no meat, fried food or salt at the Power of Food program. Instead, everyone was served a salad and pasta dish packed with vitamins and lessons on the super powers of natural foods.

On Wednesday at Thousand Islands Middle School, Dr. Robert P. Dell’Amore taught students and their families about how these super foods were not just essential to a healthy body, but actually tasted good.

“My teacher said we were going to try a bunch of healthy foods, not like french fries,” Thousand Islands Central School fourth-grader Sequoia M. Tominie said. “It has a lot of flavors and it’s really good for you, not like junk food.”

Sequoia was one of more than 100 elementary students who attended the morning cooking demonstration. A second session was held for middle school students in the afternoon and a community/family wellness fair took place in the evening.

School Superintendent Frank C. House said the students left the presentation full of excitement. The program was funded through a U.S. Department of Education Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant awarded to the district. Dr. Dell’Amore said that after 20 years of chiropractic medicine, he shifted his focus to teaching nutrition. He has studied nutrition for the past 10 years and delivered live presentations for eight.

Dr. Dell’Amore brought an animated cooking performance to the students, keeping them engaged through dialogue and questions and answers. He pitted the boys against the girls as he quizzed them on kitchen safety and about the vegetables he served.

He taught them cooking techniques such as caramelizing mushrooms and onions, how to julienne or finely cut vegetables and more. The produce he used for demonstration included sun-dried tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, kale, cabbage, carrots, blueberries and garlic. He also used super ingredients such as olive oil and extra virgin olive oil, which he said was the healthiest ingredient on his table.

“I’m not really here to talk; I’m here to cook,” Dr. Dell’Amore said.

Fourth-grader Analaigha D. Marino, along with a few other children, yelled back playfully, “Give us food.”

Dr. Dell’Amore had a lesson for almost every vegetable laid out on his 12-foot table.

He said the vegetables are full of “color, crunch and cancer prevention.”

“The most important part of digestion is absorption,” Dr. Dell’Amore said. He said fiber, which is most commonly thought of as an element to aid in digestion, is essential to absorbing food. He said it also helps remove bad cholesterol from the body.

He used an electric skillet and ceramic and steel knives to prepare his food. He didn’t use one piece of meat or any salt to prepare his food.

“All this food has an amazing array of colorful bounty that came from the earth,” Dr. Dell’Amore said.

His lesson was for children to talk to their parents in the kitchen, after taking a pledge never to use a knife or a stove without the permission of their parents.

“There are so many benefits to cooking,” Dr. Dell’Amore said. “You need to talk about this at home and bring your moms and dads directly into the conversation.”

Analaigha said she learned that some lettuce is healthier than others. Dr. Dell’Amore taught the students that kale and spinach are vitamin-packed leafy vegetables that have more fiber and vitamins than iceberg or romaine lettuce.

“We like have a lot of healthy foods at home, but I don’t like mushrooms,” Analaigha said. “But I tried them and I think I really like them.”

Fifth-grader Jack Bashaw said it wasn’t just one food Dr. Dell’Amore prepared, but the combination of tastes, textures and smells.

“He took all the vegetables and mixed it all up,” Jack said. “It tasted good.”

Nicholas Mason said he was surprised that he like the food because it was made without meat.

“He taught us how to make the best healthy snack,” fifth-grader Harrison Wood said.

Dr. Dell’Amore said the lessons he has taught across the state are to encourage children and their families to talk about food instead of just eating what is put in front of them. While visiting a school in Albany, he said, he was shocked to hear a principal tell him there were students at the school who had never eaten a home-cooked meal made from scratch. By hearing the educational lessons, he said, the children learn there are good choices to make on food and nutrition.

Recipes cooked by Dr. Dell’Amore are available at the Thousand Islands Central School website.

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