YMCAs from Titusville to Tavares will offer classes to teach parents and their kids how to cook and eat healthy.

The Summer Food Fun Tour is free and open to the public, not just Y members, as part of Central Florida YMCA’s mission to improve the lives of all local residents.

Integrative nutritionist and Chef Gary Appelsies, the director of the YMCA’s Healthy Eating program, will teach the classes at 20 YMCA’s through August 18. The topics range from shopping and food prep to smart snacking and how to fix 30-minute meals.

Appelsies, who graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and has a master’s in nutrition, said summer is the perfect time to start eating healthier.

“We all think of starting to eat better at the beginning of the year, but summer is a great time to reengage your body and thought process,” Appelsies said. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are in season, the kids are home from school and we have more time to think about healthy options.”

Appelsies recommends getting the entire family involved so kids learn lifelong skills required to plan and prepare healthy meals. He said the biggest challenge is learning to read food labels and shopping for healthy foods, which he’ll cover in the hour-long classes.

“We weren’t born to love sugar and sweets or have an adverse taste to fruits and vegetables,” he said. “It’s a learned behavior. We live in a fast-paced world and choosing healthy foods is not always the easiest option.”

The Dr. P. Phillips YMCA in Orlando and the Roper YMCA in Winter Garden have teaching kitchens. Appelsies will set up demonstration kitchens at the other Ys.

Each of the classes will have a theme and include a recipe such as chicken with pesto, stone soup, hummus and veggies, quinoa crusted chicken fingers and parmesan pasta with white beans.

For a full schedule of classes, go to Eventbrite.com.

About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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