Pots & Plans: Coming to a Site near You!

Eating healthy foods is not always easy on a budget, and having a few basic cooking skills to bring to the kitchen table can help. This is the thought behind the Pots & Plans cooking classes developed by Registered Dietitians at the Chicken Soup Brigade in Seattle. Pots & Plans is a six-week, mobile cooking class, with an emphasis on healthy, affordable and easy-to-prepare meals that are great for seniors dealing with chronic health issues.

In each class, dietitians from the Chicken Soup Brigade demonstrate and prepare two recipes, and sample them out to class participants. Each week, a new aspect of healthy cooking is emphasized.

Registered Dietitian Alice Vanderhaak explains how to make Fried Eggs with Sauteed Veggies during the "Throw Me a Bone" class. The grocery bags under the table are raffled off at the end of class. Winners get free groceries to prepare one of the class recipes at home.

For example, in the first class ("The Pressure's On"), the instructors discuss low-sodium cooking for people with high blood pressure. Many have found that the basic skills and tips learned in the classes have helped them make healthier choices. One past participant in the series said, "I came here and someone gave me the packet and the first word jumped out at me was 'salt'. I have high blood pressure and I thought, oh good, just what I need."  

Some have found that the classes change how they shop and prepare their meals at home. "I tend to turn into the fruit and vegetable aisle first" said one past participant, while another added, "The classes were empowering—they helped me establish more confidence."

After recipes are demonstrated in class, participants get a chance to go home and make the meals themselves. In every class, 10 grocery bags with the ingredients to make a recipe are raffled off. Those who win a bag get homework—go home, use the ingredients, and report back on how things went the next week. Instructors encourage participants to share their cooking and recipe experiences during class and with each other outside of class.

The Pots & Plans team has presented the series for two years in residential buildings and community centers across King County. More than 1,500 senior residents have participated.

Even those who already cook find they learn new things from the instructors, and from the other people attending the classes. Others find it's a great way to meet their neighbors and get more connected to their community. "The second class, I noticed that the group was so kind. I wanted to be a part of it every week," said one past participant.

Lifelong dietitian Meghan Lyle helps seniors learn to cook simple, affordable, and healthy meals.


For more information about Pots & Plans, visit www.llaa.org/potsandplans.

Contributor Meghan Lyle, MPH, RD is the lead dietitian at Lifelong. If you know of a senior building, community center, or other setting that would be a great place to hold Pots & Plans classes, contact Meghan at meghanl@llaa.org or 206-957-1649.

Would you like to volunteer?

Chicken Soup Brigade welcomes volunteers to Pots & Plans! If you would like to assist the dietitians as they conduct cooking classes for seniors at sites in the greater Seattle area, a Pots & Plans volunteer job description and application are available online.