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Making Healthy Food Tasty — UTHealth’s Nourish Program, New Cookbook and Garden Promote a Different Way

Learning How Good Food Works

BY // 01.18.22

If your New Year’s resolutions fell through on Monday, the traditional Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day, we have a unique book that could help you return to the pledge that you made about eating healthily in 2022 — while enjoying every bite.

Former Le Cordon Blue trained chef, turned dietician with a master’s degree, turned director of the Nourish Program at UTHealth School of Public Health Houston Laura S. Moore is the force behind How Good Food Works, From Seed to Plate, which not only offers a tempting compendium of tasty and healthy recipes but also tells the story of the Nourish Program, which shows people how to grow, prepare and promote food that encourages lifelong health and well-being.

First things first, there are no boring, restrictive, tasteless recipes. We are swooning over such suggestions as eggplant fried rice with chicken and cashews, Swiss chard shrimp and grits, squash blossom pizza with cauliflower crust and so many more among the 100 recipe offerings.

“It’s really about flavor. People aren’t going to change the way they eat if it doesn’t taste good,” Moore tells PaperCity. “And there are so many simple ways to make food taste delicious. And this book is an example of just that.”

Acknowledging that the book is plant forward, there are as noted above recipes that include seafood, meat and poultry. Yet plants take center stage with beautifully photographed sections that include Veggie Fruits and Fruits; Flower Buds and Flowers; Leaves; Seeds and Legumes; Roots; Bulbs, Tubers and Rhizomes; and Stems and Shoots.

“It’s all about your palette. You’re not going to eat vegetables if they don’t taste good,” Moore says. “Our goal really is to make these vegetables taste delicious and open up peoples eyes to different ways of preparation.”

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The recipes were developed by Wesley McWhorter, who joined the Nourish team in 2016. He had been a student, is a chef and registered dietician. He studied at at the school because of the Nourish program and now serves as culinary director

“The book is an extension really of what we’ve developed over the years,” Moore notes.

Laura S. Moore in the holistic garden that feeds UTHealth School of Public Health's Nourish Program, the source of Moore's book How Good Food Works From Seed to Table. (Photo by Alexander's Fine Portrait Design)
Laura Moore, director of the Nourish Program at UTHealth School of Public Health with students in the program’s holistic garden. (Photo by Alexander’s Fine Portrait Design)

The concept of the Nourish program was borne while she was teaching nutrition/dietitian students at the University of Houston.

“They had theory. They had foundation. They knew a lot about micro and macro nutrients. They knew  calories,” Moore says. “They knew everything that a diet was made up of but they didn’t know food. They couldn’t talk to people about food.”

When she moved to UTHealth in 2012, Moore began to put into play her belief that students needed more than just theory and foundation. They needed hands-on opportunities within their curriculum to learn about food.

“And that starts in the garden,” Moore says. “You’ve gotta dig in the dirt. You’ve got to really appreciate where food comes from.”

Thus was the launch of a holistic garden, a 5,000 square foot plain of flourishing fruits and vegetables, tucked into an open space between the Cizik School of Nursing and the School of Public Health. The garden was created by UTHealth School of Public Health’s adjunct professor Joe Novak, whose educational pursuits have focused on how to improve the way that plants are grown with emphasis on the restorative impact of nature to the human spirit.

Novak has a section in the book that provides a step-by-step instruction on how to construct a garden, including everything from soil preparation to water and disease management.

Nourish Blossoms

Thanks to the largesse of Moore’s husband, Sanders, Morris, Harris founder Don Sanders, the Nourish Program has flourished and today boasts a state-of-the-art research/demonstration kitchen and a clinical simulation lab where students develop skills in talking to patients about food itself as well as nutrition. Sanders also made publication of the book possible.

“Don has been a huge supporter of everything that we’re doing. He has such a generous heart, ” Moore says. “Sports and animals have always been at the forefront of his life but then he started helping Lisa Helfman working with Brighter Bites and began to understand the importance of what we are doing. He provided resources and support.”

The book was celebrated at a launch party at the Morris/Sanders home in December. All proceeds from sales of the $50 book are dedicated to UTHealth School of Public Health community classes in underserved communities. How Good Food Works From Seed to Plate is available for order here.

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