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Keys to Cooking Healthy + Tasty + Quick with Cindy Kleckner, RD, LD


I went to the most awesome cooking class a couple weeks ago at the Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch.   Aptly named Sizzling Simplicity: Asian Wok Cookery, it was a class on preparing quick, sweet or savory variations of Asian dishes using a wok.   Our chef immediately drew us in with her passion for playing in the kitchen with different tastes and flavors, as she casually discussed her love for food and nutrition.   We learned how to cook – and got to taste firsthand – 3 different dishes.   The aromas of these different dishes filled the room and tantalized our palates even before the food hit our mouths!   I left inspired to cook more Asian dishes, and I also left very impressed by our instructor.

The chef was Cindy Kleckner, RD. LD.   Cindy is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian who has worked in the Cooper Clinic Nutrition Department for over 10 years specializing in weight management, cardiovascular health, corporate wellness and nutritional culinary events.   Cindy has contributed to several books authored by the reknown Dr. Kenneth Cooper.   But just recently, she co-authored the Hypertension Cookbook for Dummies with Roseanne Rust, MS, RD, LDN.   I picked up a copy of the book and was blown away by all the great advice (and recipes!) that Cindy and Roseanne included in this book.   Regardless of whether or not you have hypertension, this book is a must-have for your kitchen cookbook library.
Cindy Kleckner, RD, LD

Recently, I had the opportunity to do a one-on-one interview with Cindy.   We got to talk about her food and cooking philosophy, her book and the cooking classes and on-on-one nutrition counseling she offers here locally:

1.   What started first - your love for nutrition or your love for cooking?   

Funny, even as a kid I had an interest in   food.....coming from an ethnic family (Polish) we had very strong    traditions.   My father died of a massive heart attack at age 33 so we focused more on prevention even though we didn't realize it at the time.   Nutrition and dietetics was such a great fit for me. My beloved Easy Bake oven was a fave back in the day!!

2.   Many people associate healthy cooking with less flavor.     How do you cook healthy without sacrificing taste?     Healthy cooking and taste can co-exist by utilizing all the wonderful    herbs and spices, aromatic vegetables such as shallots, garlic, onions, flavored vinegars, specialty oils like walnut oil and sesame oil and using a variety of cooking methods such as roasting that bring out the natural    caramelization in food.    The ingredients just mentioned provide not only wonderful flavor, but also a    health component by adding antioxidants and phytochemicals.
3.   I get people in my office that just seem resistant to explore   recipes, or even try to cook.   What can you say to get a mom or   dad cooking even when they declare that they are not a cook ?    

It is THE BEST gift you can give to future generations to    spend some time exploring in the kitchen, taking a field trip to the farmers market and modeling that food IS indeed an important part of   our    health.   There are classes offered for families which make an exciting, family activity.   It is also a good way to reign in the food budget by learning how to cook fresh food fast.

4.   Families are busier than ever right now, and making meals at    home is a tall order.   I am a big proponent of increasing family meals   because they have benefits that go beyond nutrition.   What are some key things that you think would help the average family get home cooked meals on    the table without too much fuss?  

Techniques such as foil pouch dinners (just like girl scout camp outs) which can be prepared    ahead of time and placed in the oven or on the grill -   and done in no   time.   Both Stir fry and crock pot cookery are also excellent ways to get food on the table fast.   Recipes are included in our cookbook. We've seen a decline in culinary literacy to the point   that most people are lost without packaged food and take-out    containers.   I guarantee that a few sessions in my demo kitchen will help families gain confidence to get cooking the healthy way.

5.   People want recipes that are not only for one healthy,    but two, are tasty and three, easy to prepare.   I call it the difficult trifecta!   What things does someone look for in a recipe and/or    recipe book that can give one insight into hitting these three items?    

If it’s an old family favorite, ingredients can be substituted to reduce fast, sugar and salt such as substituting canned evaporated skim milk for whole milk or cream.    Wholesome, high quality   ingredi ents    (whole food) need only simple cooking techniques - such as a piece of    deliciously grilled wild salmon served with a squeeze of a grilled half lemon,   or rubbed with   some smoked paprika, cinnamon,    thyme   and orange zest........a real party in your   mouth!

6.   I love your new book, Hypertension forDummies.   You and    Roseanne rust, MS, RD, LDN did a phenomenal job. This is so much more than a high blood pressure cookbook!   You have so many tips and    suggestions along with tons of recipes categorized by meal type such    as breakfast, lunch, dinner and even a host of vegetarian dishes.   I love   your section on meal planning. What are the best features you think might    be especially helpful for families?
Plan ahead.   Falling to plan is planning to fail in the way of shopping, cooking and eating healthier.   When it comes to feeding a family -    exposure to new foods - don't' fall prey to the usual chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.   Take the opportunity to educate young palates with a variety    of different foods.   If you get the whole family involved in the process they will "buy into the program!"
7.   High blood pressure does affect everyone of all ages these   days.   What are some important things to know about eating to lower blood pressure?

It’s not always about "giving up" but rather what   to add to make your diet healthier.   Besides being conscious of sodium intake, it is very important to substitute plant protein, add fruits,   vegetables and more whole grains to the diet to add potassium, magnesium and calcium. Here is a cheat sheet I created that will help your readers:   Cindy’s hypertension cheat sheet.

8.   I absolutely love watching you in action at your cooking    classes.   They are chocked full of super practical cooking tips that make people want to get into    their kitchen and get cooking.   Tell me about the cooking classes you offer, and what someone would learn in    them.   Thank you Angela.   My philosophy is as follows:

- > Cooking wholesome, "real" food in combination with nutrition education can help motivate positive behavior change by making food more exciting and satisfying.

-> Promote healthy relationships with food, healthy respect for food and an appreciation for sustainable agriculture and seasonality which help to exercise more restraint.

-> Help clients get back to the basics with selection and preparation of food.   Often the biggest barrier to modify diet is lack of skills in the kitchen.

-> My goal is to educate, inspire, build confidence and help make the kitchen a more user-friendly place while having fun!

9. What other services do you offer at Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch?

All of the nutrition services are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! No membership required to experience nutrition at Cooper!   Currently, I offer:- Private Nutrition Consultations to help people achieve long-term   nutrition goals.

-   4-week Hands-On Kitchen Boot Camp that provides participants with the arsenal to help win the kitchen battle with quick and easy tips to get fresh food on the   table fast. Success comes with reviewing basic nutrition information, meal planning, writing menus, stocking pantry, knife skills   supermarket tips, healthy cooking tips, recipe rehab and learning fundamentals of flavor building. There is an emphasis on actual food preparation in this class.

- Monthly themed culinary demos at the state-of-the-art demo kitchen offer unique and memorable education experience.    Themes vary every month based on health related such as "Heart month"   or Chinese new year or Kentucky Derby, Mardi Gras   etc.   During these informative classes, you observe the preparation of the food, taste samples and interact with group for a lively discussion.

- Worksite Wellness Programs

- Culinary Tem Building Events, a unique and effective way to build team spirit, break down office stereotypes   where clients chop, dice and sauté their way to better communication, sales and management skills.

To find out more about the services that Cindy Kleckner, RD, LD offers, contact the Cooper Fitness Center at Craig Ranch at 214-383-1000.

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