200214637-006 Listen up ladies: The recession is real. And if you think the massive layoffs are only having an effect on your pockets, think again. Today’s shaky economy is taking a toll on our health, too. “When people are struggling financially, their diet often suffers, not so much because of the cost of decent food – because a meal made of rice, beans and a vegetable can be pennies – but because stress levels and anxiety levels are so high that [people self medicate] with foods such as take-out and snacks high in sugars,” says Barbara Mendez, President of Lifestyle Nutrients, a nutrition consulting company.

But just because your wallet may be suffering, doesn’t mean your diet has to. A recession is the perfect time to reconnect with whole foods – and friends – by throwing a Nutrition Party. The premise: Gather a group of girlfriends and invite a nutritionist, chef or health professional to answer all of your food questions, teach you what you should be eating and demonstrate how to cook meals. It’s ladies night in full effect, but instead of a trip to the club, your guests learn how to prepare low cost healthy meals at home. “What better way for sisters to improve their health and that of family and friends?” asks Constance Brown-Riggs, Registered Dietitian and author of Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes, who has counseled thousands of people on ways to eat and serve healthy cuisine.

Want to throw a party of your own? We’ve outlined step-by-step instructions on how to make it happen. Take notes.

Step One: The expert. There are many places to find an expert to participate in your party. One way to ensure you get a reputable professional is visiting the American Dietetic Association’s website www.eatright.org. Click “Find a Nutrition Professional” to search for a Registered Dietitian in your area. Other sites that help you track down a health professional include www.findanutritionist.com and www.wellness.com. If that doesn’t work, ask your doctor for a recommendation.

Step Two: The theme. Now, you don’t have to pick a theme. But, come on, themes make everything more fun. Not to mention the possibilities are endless. Some of Brown-Riggs’ ideas: “Tour the World of Food Party, Fat Be Gone Brunch and Guiltless Gourmet Party.” Choose one you like and do it up by decorating.

Step Three: The itinerary. Tell your guest to prepare a couple of questions in advance to bring with them. Remember, you want to get the most out of this experience as possible. You may want to provide the professional with some talking points to be safe. Portion Distortion, The Skinny on Fat, The Salt of the Earth, Carbohydrate Counting, Make Your Own Food Pyramid, are just some of the examples that Brown-Riggs says work well at any nutrition fiesta. “The most useful things to cover would be healthy snacks – this is where people typically fall off even the best intentioned eating plans – healthy dinners for the whole family, getting started with a healthy breakfast to improve energy levels and even burn some stored fat.” adds Mendez.

Step Four: The food. To make your Nutrition Party a success, cooking demonstrations are a must. After all, you want your guests to leave with a better idea of how to make healthy meals at home. There are a couple of different ways to do this. The first is talking with the professional about what you would like him or her to prepare. “I work with people on the menu, bring equipment when necessary, bring all the ingredients and spend time talking about unfamiliar ingredients, which is often the case,” says Jill Nussinow, a Registered Dietitian who has been doing private nutrition parties for 15 years. Another idea is having the nutritionist take the group to a grocery store or farmers market. The nutritionist can help the group find and purchase a couple of key ingredients, then lead the clan back to the house and start the cooking process. “It will teach individuals how to eat healthy on a budget, which food items to buy in bulk and in season, how to read the food labels,” says Brown-Riggs.

Step Five: The Favors. You can’t have a nutrition party without party favors. The most important thing to leave your guests with is recipes they can use. Make sure to coordinate with the nutritionist to get recipes for everything they are going to make. This way you can make sure your guests leave home with instructions on how to whip up what they’ve seen. Healthy snacks (raisins, nuts, fresh fruit) and cooking utensils (spatulas, measuring spoons, measuring cups) are also good party favors. If you can, try to get your hands on some coupons for healthy meals, like Amy’s organics frozen dinners. Your guests will love you for it.

Jessica Jones is a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist who is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Nutrition. The California native is the co-founder of Square Rootz, a media and lifestyle website for people of the African diaspora, and www.wholegraingrub.com, a health and nutrition blog.

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