Allani Guzman (left) finishes her salad, Thursday at the third annual Molina Healthy Cooking Class in Holtville. WILLIAM ROLLER PHOTO

Cooking class highlights nutrition, flavors

Posted on June 22, 2017
By William Roller

HOLTVILLE — Children of the Boys & Girls Club of Imperial Valley were surprised how much fun a healthy cooking class can be, Thursday.

Molina Healthcare’s mascot Dr. Cleo traded his surgical cap for a chef’s hat as he swapped high-fives and fist bumps with 35 children as St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which hosted the third annual class where youth 4- to 14-years-old learned to prepare Dr. Cleo’s recipe. The hearty smarty chicken salad comprised: iceberg and Romaine lettuce, shredded carrots cherry tomatoes sliced cucumbers and oven roasted chicken strips, which children assembled themselves.

Since BGCIV focuses on healthy lifestyle, the intention was get children to apply new ideas on healthy eating, remarked Raquel Renteria, club site unit director. In addition to a hearty lunch, Molina and the Food Bank of Imperial Valley donated melons, corn and green onions for children to take home. Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District was also a co-sponsor of the event.

It is really critical to promote nutrition, physical fitness but most important, making healthy food choices, noted Alexandra Bravo, Molina community engagement manager.

“So by making the cooking class interactive, where children prepare their own chicken salad, they’ll be encouraged to make healthy food choices as adults,” said Bravo.

Quizzing children on basic nutrition were PMHD dieticians Geraldine Pallin and intern Ben Saucier. Taking the recipe ingredients one at a time, Saucier explained how nutrients from different foods benefit their bodies and performance.

“Today we make a salad with lettuce-green foods are good for you, with fiber to help digestion,” Saucier said. “We add carrots, good for eyesight and tomatoes that keeps you hydrated and then chicken, a protein that gives you energy and builds muscle. Now we’ll wash our hands and then wash our veggies.”

Alanni Guzman, 11, remarked there were a lot of different flavors but once they were mixed together it tasted good. Carrots were her favorite and she especially enjoyed the apple cider dressing.

“I make salads sometimes for my family and I like to add different meats such as pepperoni or ham, she said. “Today I learned about foods you need for good nutrition, meat, carrots, bell pepper, tomato and cucumber.”

Dylan Martinez, 9, liked the chicken and cucumbers with the strawberry vinaigrette but at home he eats salad just occasionally.

“This class taught us tomatoes have a lot of water and carrots are good for the eyes,” he said. “But what I usually like to eat is macaroni and cheese.”

Ashlyn Layton, 5, was particularly excited meeting Dr. Cleo but less so for his recipe. “I like him because he’s nice,” said Ashlyn. “I’ve tried salad before but I don’t really like vegetables. What I really like to eat for lunch is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and for dinner I like macaroni.”

Pallin, the PMHD dietician hopes children learn to include all the food groups recommended by fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

“I hope by experiencing healthy foods they’ll cultivate a taste for it,” she said. “The kids had fun and I’m thankful for that.”

Staff Writer William Roller can be reached at or 760-337-3452.

MyHealth @ PMHD