What is The Art Behind Eating Workshop?

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The Art Behind Eating Workshop was created by Jade Ryall (our Back On Track Health Program Manager) and Jane Miller (our Community Arts Coordinator) in order to make healthy food choices easier and cheaper. This Workshop is based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Jane told us how it’s been going. 

What is the purpose of your Workshop? 

The Art Behind Eating Workshop combines nutrition education, art-based theory and fun group activities for a hands-on experience. We want to present a new way of thinking about our relationship with food, and endeavour to share this information with the participants in a way that is fun, creative and encourages involvement. The Workshop’s name came from the portion plates that the participants design, decorate and take home with them, and these plates serve several functions: they are a reminder of optimal portion sizes, spell out the correct ratio of colourful vegetables, low GI carbohydrates and lean proteins that we all need, and encourage people to try new colours of veggies. In a sense, these plates ARE the Art Behind Eating. 

Why did you and Jade team up to run this Workshop? 

Jade and I work together on the Professional Practice team over at Head Office. Jade brought the nutritional knowledge, and I have the art skills. It made sense to team up and pool our specialities. 

Has this particular Workshop existed in other, earlier forms? 

In May 2016, Jade and I facilitated a group at the PreEmploy Institute graduation at Buck House. The interactive group combined healthy eating information and artistic expression. Some of these elements were incorporated into the Art Behind Eating Workshops. 

Where have you run the Workshop? 

We’ve held the Workshops at Penrith twice: once for their day-to-day living service, and once for Penrith YCLSS (Youth Community Living Support Service). We ran it at Harris Park a couple of times, as well as Flowerdale, Embark Cottage, Seven Hills and Figtree Conference Centre. 

Who did you design the Workshop for? 

I personally believe this Workshop can benefit everyone. I think I have a reasonably healthy diet, though I’ve made some recent changes to my plate using the colour principle and I feel better because of it. The health benefits are universal. I think deep down we all want to be a bit more healthy if we can manage it. 

How many people are in each Workshop, and how long do they go for? 

We limit group numbers to 6 to 8 people. This allows everyone to contribute to the discussion and have a go in the activities. It also gives Jade and myself time to help everyone with the painting-the-plate activity at the end of the group. Each Workshop goes for roughly 2 . to 3 hours. 

I understand the participants are treated to a healthy lunch at the end. What did they eat, and why was this dish chosen? 

The meal we prepare as a group contains foods we’ve promoted in the Workshop. We use vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, corn, coloured peppers, spinach, mushrooms, avocado or purple onions, as well as low-GI carbohydrates like wholemeal bread, wraps and rolls. Lean proteins – like chicken, tuna, salmon, beef and pork, or legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans – are also essential. Some participants may have discussed different ways of serving food, so when we prepare the lunch they are welcome to showcase their cultural techniques or other food prep talents. 

How viable are these suggested changes for the Average Joe or Jill? 

With the Art Behind Eating Workshop, we aim to encourage practical change. This could be something small to start with. For example, if someone has chicken and chips for dinner, we’ll encourage them to add some colour to the meal, as even a few slices of tomato will offer health benefits. Or take spaghetti bolognaise, for example: adding grated carrot, mushrooms and capsicum into the sauce is a great way to increase your vegetable intake, and using wholemeal spaghetti will incorporate low GI carbohydrates. We also discuss including healthier, cheaper options, like using legumes, beans, and lentils for protein. 

What benefits does this diet provide? 

I hesitate to say “diet”, as that can carry negative feelings for a lot of people. For me, I associate “diet” with many failures, and it makes me think of an unrealistic, unobtainable weight according to a medical model. I think a lot of people feel this way. However, I believe that if we eat food that is nutritious, less processed and in healthier portion sizes, and we combine this with regular exercise and we feel well, then we are well. 

How can you tell if these Workshops have been effective? 

After the initial round of Workshops, Jade and I came back to thank everyone by preparing and eating a healthy lunch. This also allowed us to follow up on our evaluations and have a chat over a nice meal. It gave everyone an opportunity to share what they’d learned about their own food intake, how they had incorporated what they learned, and what was holding them back from eating healthily. Sometimes thinking a little differently than we have been taught can shift our perceptions and make it easier to bring about change. 

Are there plans to expand the Workshop? 

I hope so. I believe in the Art Behind Eating Workshop. Jade and I have written up the workshop for use with the Flourish Learning Network (FLN). 

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