(10/25/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — Variety is the spice of life, the saying goes.
A variety of spices — and herbs — also may lead to a healthier life.
A new program from the LSU AgCenter Flavors of Health nutrition initiative encourages Louisiana cooks to sample new herbs and spices to flavor their cooking without salt.
Through the “A Taste of Herbs and Spices” program, AgCenter nutrition agents work with community partners, such as libraries, to distribute promotional flyers about an herb or spice along with a free sample of the featured flavoring.
“Our primary goal in Flavors of Health is to engage with our communities by using multiple approaches to provide nutrition and food education that support healthy eating,” said Shakera Williams, an AgCenter nutrition agent who created the program in Webster and Claiborne parishes earlier this year. “What better way to do that than creating mini samples of herbs and spices?”
A Taste of Herbs and Spices flyers include a recipe with nutritional information and background about the featured herb or spice.
In April, the program began by highlighting thyme and circulating a fact sheet with a recipe for roasted potatoes with the herb. The program expanded statewide in October with curry powder as the featured spice.
Williams adapted the idea from an educational outreach initiative by a nutrition program in another state. She had always placed nutrition fact sheets and flyers for workshops at the local libraries, but after adding little packets of spices and herbs to the fact sheets, the handouts moved much more quickly.
“That’s what we should be doing — unique things, out of the box things, to teach people other ways to flavor their foods without salt,” Williams said.
The small packets of herbs and spices contain just enough to cook the recipe listed on the fact sheet. It gives people a chance to try something new without spending money on a jar of herbs or spices, said Elizabeth Gollub, a nutrition specialist and registered dietitian with the AgCenter who oversees the Flavors of Health program.
“It is a good exercise in flavor exploration,” Gollub said.
While the front of the monthly fact sheet educates the public on ways to cook with new flavors, the back spreads the word about the Flavors of Health program and its workshops and classes.
“I think it’s a great idea to advertise who we are and what we do,” Gollub said.
Flavors of Health, a community-focused nutrition and health program, includes four signature programs, Smart Portions; Small Changes, Healthy Habits; Dining with Diabetes; and Break Up with Salt. Twelve AgCenter nutrition agents who are part of Flavors of Health work in 20 parishes, providing classes and workshops that help Louisianians make healthy food and fitness choices.
For November, A Taste of Herbs and Spices will feature ginger, an aromatic spice used in many Asian dishes.
Shakera Williams, an LSU AgCenter nutrition agent for Webster and Claiborne parishes, created an educational initiative that provides samples of herbs and spices to Louisiana cooks and educates them on ways to flavor food with less salt. The initiative helps publicize the work of the Flavors of Health program. Photo by R. Thompson