NEW BEDFORD, MASS. >> Kale was at the top of the menu recently at the Hazelwood Senior Center.
Seniors learned how to put a new spin on the leafy greens most often used in Portuguese soup as part of a collaboration between the Senior Center, New Bedford Mass in Motion and Coastline Elderly Services.
Using vegetables grown in a community garden new this year to the Senior Center, Coastline dietician Jamie Buccheri demonstrated how to make kale chips and a healthy version of a Caesar salad, substituting kale for romaine lettuce.
"We can always make things a little more healthy," Buccheri told the handful of seniors who attended the demonstration.
To make the salad healthier, Buccheri used olive oil-based mayonnaise for the dressing and used water to thin the dressing out.
Substituting kale for romaine also made the meal healthier because "It's one of those amazing vegetable super foods. "It has an extra nutritional punch compared to other greens," Buccheri explained about kale, which contains calcium, Vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium and iron, among other nutrients.
After the demonstration, the seniors were able to taste the finished product, and many said they were impressed.
"I never think about using kale unless it's for soup," Carol Flanagan said. "Now I'll have to."
Her friend Lynda Perkins agreed, saying she would definitely try to prepare both the kale chips and the salad for herself at home.
"I'm going to have to go out and buy some," said Perkins.
All of the ingredients used in the demonstration came from the Hazelwood Senior Center garden, a new project with Mass in Motion this year.
The senior center garden produces all kinds of vegetables, including kale, tomatoes, hot peppers, squash, cucumbers and sunflowers.
Kim Ferreira, who coordinates Mass in Motion programs in New Bedford, said the organization decided what to plant after sending a survey to seniors. Though the survey results did express much interest in kale, she said they decided to plant some anyway because it is fairly easy to grow and has high nutritional value.
Providing seniors with new food options is important, Ferreira said, because many elderly must change their cooking habits as their health changes.
For example, she said, seniors may need low-sodium diets as they age or be unable to spend a lot of effort preparing or chopping food. Some elderly are afraid of using the stove and oven, and others have to become accustomed to cooking for fewer people than they did when they lived with other family members.
"You need simple recipes that are easy to make for one or two people," she said. "Many may know how to cook but they aren't used to doing it just for themselves, or their mobility limits what they can make as they age."