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Health Living Center Diabetes Prevention: Plant-Based Cooking Class Eats Their First Meal

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By Melissa Spellman
Staff Reporter
New Journal and Guide

On January 10, 2024, The Healthy Living Center (HLC) located at 930 Majestic Avenue in Norfolk, VA began the first class of the four-week Diabetes Prevention: Plant Based Cooking Class. HLC launched this course in November of 2022. This course, Healthy Education & Cooking Class: A Plant-Based Approach Lifestyle, is a part of the National Diabetes Prevention program. HLC is partnering with Sentara Cares to offer the community techniques on how to prepare and cook healthy meals for individuals and their families.

The class is led by the Co-founder and President of HLC, Certified Diabetes Educator and Diabetes Lifestyle Coach Dr. Olivia Newby. Dr. Newby, her husband, Dr. James Newby and their daughter, Marcia N. Newby-Goodman, operate the Primary Care Specialists medical practice on Majestic Avenue where most of their clientele is African-American.

HLC is committed to increasing health awareness in the city of Norfolk through collaborative interacting with the community and offering self-care management skills to citizens to modify and improve their quality of life through education. The course is an introduction to plant-based cooking that offers a holistic approach to diabetes education and prevention.

Dr. Newby’s class provides an illustration of Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the effects of obesity. She discusses these health topics in a non-medical way using common language that allows the information to resonate with everyone. For example, in explaining high cholesterol Newby states, “I look at high cholesterol as how often we use butter, cheese, mayonnaise, and eggs. Anything that has a momma and a daddy. Anything walking on the ground.”

This class erupts in laughter as the doctor does a little two step to emphasize “walking on the ground.” The group understands her message that when you look at your plate and there are more things four legged and more things with a momma and a daddy this equals more prescriptions. The class also teaches participants about reading nutrition labels, the social determinants of health, and how to eat better to live better and longer.

When participants arrive, they check in and get their vitals taken. This includes height, weight, blood pressure, and waist measurements which will determine their body mass index or BMI.

Next participants have a brief group session with Dr. Newby where she discusses the nature of the class, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and health risk factors based on gender and race. Dr. Newby poses questions and gets feedback from guests that gauges their thoughts and feelings about health and food.

Newby shared with the class that a plant-based approach avoids meat, dairy, and eggs. In this stage of the process the participants are in the approach phase and are deciding to change. “Approach means you are thinking about it, you’re planning, and you’re making a decision,” said Newby. She notes that this transition is not an overnight process and often takes years for individuals to make a complete lifestyle change.

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The educator explained that a plant-based diet includes vegetables, fruit, grains, and beans or things that come out of the ground and it’s about making them taste good. After Dr. Newby got the class motivated for change the participants began the cooking portion of the course led by Chef Patricia Louis. On the menu for the day was a vegetable stir fry with onions, broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms using no oil.

The dish was seasoned with a spice blend called 21 seasoning salute that included no salt. The class made their own sauce with lemon juice, low sodium soy sauce, minced garlic, and honey. The dish was accompanied by brown rice and vegan/veggie nuggets. The class was allowed to take home their leftovers and gifted a bottle of low sodium soy sauce and a bottle of 21 seasoning salute. Three classes remain in the session and participants can’t wait to see what’s on the menu for the next week.

The class is free and open to the public. If you are interested in attending the Diabetes Prevention: Plant-Based cooking class you can register for the next session at www.hlcnorfolk.com, call (757) 622-0542, or email hlcnorfolk@gmail.com for more information.

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