Seniors advised on how to enjoy the ‘Taste of Italy’ in a healthy way
Although I'm still in my mid 20s, one of my closest friends is closer to my grandmother's age. She's still as smart as a whip and full of enough great wisdom to rival talk show host Oprah Winfrey, but the one thing slowing her down is usually arthritis or aching joints.
While she used to spend hours in front of the stove making a well balanced meal for dinner, these days cooking needs to be quick and simple.
Italian chef Angelo D'Amato recently demonstrated how seniors can still enjoy some of their Italian food favourites, while being mindful of health and dietary restrictions.
In front of a packed audience at the Senior's Learning Centre's ‘Taste of Italy' event at Bermuda College on Wednesday, he taught them how to make a handful of Mediterranean favourites like pasta and bruschetta in under 45 minutes.
Mr D'Amato said: “We tried to concentrate on recipes that are healthy and the quick and the great thing about the Mediterranean diet is it has a lot of benefits that everyone is trying to get on board with.
“Growing up in the Mediterranean we tended to be healthier, but we didn't know why.
“We were just eating and going along our merry way, but it's a great diet to follow because it includes a lot of fresh fish and seafood, olives, olive oil, legumes, beans and these sorts of things.”
According to research, adults aged 55 and older should eat foods that are rich in healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocados, salmon and walnuts. The fat from these sources can protect against heart disease by controlling ‘bad' LDL cholesterol levels and raising ‘good' HDL cholesterol levels.
This demographic can also benefit from adding fibre to their diet by taking in raw fruits and veggies, whole-grains, and beans. Such foods can also help with digestion, lower the risk of chronic diseases and make them feel fuller longer.
In order to prevent water retention and high blood pressure, it's best to avoid foods that are high in salt. Another good idea is to season meals with garlic, herbs, and spices instead.
Mr D'Amato started the presentation by showing seniors how they can prepare a simple Bruschetta Caprese. By taking toasted slices of French bread, topped with diced tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and basil you have a basic appetiser that can be ready in just a few minutes.
He also created an Eggplant Involtini dish by taking sliced of eggplant and pan frying it. He then stuffed the eggplant with ricotta and Parmesan cheeses and basil, rolled it up, then baked it with a rich tomato sauce, he explained.
The chef also made a pasta dish with a small shell-shaped pasta and Cime de Rape, a type of broccoli. You coat the pasta with olive oil, garlic and a pinch of dried hot chilli peppers to give it an added kick.
Lastly was a Chicken Milanese dish, which is basically chicken breast coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and then pan fried in olive oil.
“You cook it until it gets a nice crunch on the outer coating,” he said. “It doesn't take long because the chicken in thin and cooks very quickly.”
The dish is then paired with seasoned, baked vegetables like potatoes, carrots butternut squash and parsnips.
Although he doesn't recommend for anyone to eat fried foods regularly, the chef said such foods were okay in moderation as a special treat.
Janet Ferguson, executive director of the SLC, said there was a lot of great feedback from seniors who participated in the event.
“I just bumped into someone outside who sent us an e-mail to say what a wonderful time and how informative it was,” Dr Ferguson said.
“I think it was the mixture of leisure and learning that made it such a successful event. It's not just telling them ‘This is how you have to prepare your food now'. It was more about gathering together and seeing a chef prepare something from his mother's kitchen that he would make at home.”
She said one of the main adjustments seniors had to make when cooking was simply learning how to scale back their portions. For years they may have been cooking for a large family, but now they have to learn to cook for one or two people again.
“That's why if you look at the menu we had on Wednesday the dishes were really examples that someone living on their own or just two people living together could do quite quickly and easily. The ingredients were also very accessible and easy to obtain.
“They were also very nutritious, because when you climb over age 55 you really have to be mindful of what you are eating and what's happening to your bones and tissue.”