Healthier Eating in the Neighborhood

Healthier Eating in the Neighborhood

Feeding a big family nutritious and calorie-right foods can be a challenge. It’s hard to satisfy everyone’s preferences, afford what you need, and stick to the ideal “nutrient dense, low calorie” approach. The task for a small family or a single person requires no less care. Drifting off into low quality, junk-food-land is a constant danger that compounds the problem and has terrible long-term consequences. In a recent event hosted by Sustainable Southern Gables, our neighbor Justina Walls conducted a class on healthier eating. 

On a warm sunny morning, ironically the day right after our Southern Gables Neighborhood Night Out was rained out, a group of neighbors gathered at the outdoor classroom area of the Green Gables Elementary School campus adjacent to the Community Garden. In telling us about the class beforehand, two important topics were promised: the perennial question of what to do with all those zucchinis that overwhelm home gardens in the summer, and brownies. Healthy, delicious, chocolaty brownies.

Justina Walls and her husband Glenn McCarthy have long been advocates of the plant-based food movement, and we have admired their dedication to good health before.1 They have demonstrated the value of a sound nutritional plan in their own lives by an astonishing return to health from a serious illness. That experience strengthened their resolve to help stem the tide of unhealthful eating habits that pervades our way of life. Justina speaks with the authority of not only a formal education in health and nutrition but also a remarkable recovery from serious illness, gaining health and strength from the right diet.

With the promise of brownies as a lead-in, Justina started with the premise that the key to a more healthful, more nutritious diet is inexpensive; it is all around us; and it is so easy, sensible, and ordinary that it is largely overlooked. More fruits and veggies! A healthy diet rests on a foundation of including more fruits and vegetables in our diets. The real question is, “How can you get your family (and yourself!) to eat more fruits & veggies and other nutrient dense and low calorie foods? How can you do this quickly, easily, and inexpensively?”

The class centered around ways to answer that question. Vegetables can be added to just about anything, and the techniques for doing so are surprisingly easy and effective. Justina has compiled a list of tips for encouraging the eating of vegetables that could get them into the diet of the pickiest two-year-old, not to mention problem eaters of any generation who are “set in their ways” in turning up their noses at “that veggie stuff.”

As Justina was describing the tips and ideas to make healthier eating easier and more convenient, Glenn was preparing a sample plate for each attendee. As the plates were being served, Justina provided a list of ten useful tips for encouraging the eating of vegetables, and gave examples of each one in turn. If you want a copy of the list, it is here. Highlights included how to make the taste of added vegetables undetectable, the benefits to health and the environment of making dietary changes, and the importance of color in making a meal more attractive. She made the point that “The first thing we eat with is our eyes.” Several specific veggie dishes were described, and she went through a brief description of several of the recipes including a veggie burger that can be made at home and is tastier and healthier than the commercially prepared ones. On the topic of gravies and sauces, she told us with a smile, “I love gravies. I believe the whole point of food is to hold gravies and sauces.” Then there was that brownie recipe, with the absolutely delicious specimen of a brownie served to us as proof that healthy eating can include decadently delicious treats.

In connection with the tips that Justina outlined, she described a few of the recipes in detail. You can find them here: the burger, the squash and zucchini (to solve that summer problem), and that amazing brownie. Justina will gladly share any of the other recipes on the tip sheet, or for that matter will offer personalized menu and serving suggestions to anyone who wishes to contact her.

The final tip on the list was not a recipe though, but a serving technique: keeping good foods ready for snacks. People will eat what’s easy, and bite-sized pieces are easy. Justina told us about a couple she knew, whose teens were constantly on the prowl for snacks. They all loved watermelon. Wanting to encourage something other than junk food, the parents put a watermelon front and center in the fridge. As Justina told us, “No one touched it. Next day, they cut the watermelon in half and left it in the front and center of the fridge. No one touched it. Next day, they cut it into fourths. Same thing. Then they cut it into easy-to-hold-in-your-hand pieces. The watermelon disappeared. Moral of the story – leave foods (even favorites) in a state that requires some work and no one eats it. Prepare food in a manner that is easy to grab for a snack and it will disappear!”

Making good food disappear is a good magic trick! To contact Justina about her healthier eating magic, email her at [email protected].

About the teacher: Justina Walls holds certificates in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell University and Forks Over Knives Plant Based Cooking from The Rouxbe School of Cooking. She has taught healthy plant-based cooking and nutrition for over 30 years. She is a member of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association as well as Sustainable Southern Gables. To see articles she has written for us about life in the neighborhood, click here

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A Walk in the Park

A Walk in the Park

We have more than a few parks in Lakewood – 113 of them! The newest one is right next to our Southern Gables neighborhood. Peak View Park opened this past week and we took a walk. 

All those parks cover a lot of land: 7,200 acres. That’s almost the size of all of our neighbor city Littleton. Over a quarter of Lakewood is dedicated to parks. The biggest one, of course, is Bear Creek Lake Park, with 2,600 acres right there.1 Our smallest park is the 1-acre Bonvue Park on Holland Street. Coming in at about 60 acres, our newest park finally opened this past week. It has been five years since the City of Lakewood bought the large parcel of open space from the estate of the late Vernon and Ann Taylor, and promised to keep it open for public use as a park. A naming contest gave it the name Peak View Park. It is a park of the “wide open spaces” kind, preserving the natural beauty of the rolling prairie landscape while allowing public access on trails for walking and biking.

All the details.

Years have gone by with the intersection at Wadsworth and Morrison Road being dominated by construction vehicles and “do not enter” signs, and grading of the berm running south on the east side of Wadsworth. Little else could be seen of the work going on inside the area. With the opening of the park, we can now see what all that work has accomplished. It’s good: thoughtfully designed paths and trails to access the natural beauty, with the natural beauty left in its prime condition.

We took the occasion of opening day to go to the new park and check it out. In order to enter the parking lot at Wadsworth & Morrison Road, I was mindful of the “no left turn” restriction from southbound Wads. I came out of our Southern Gables neighborhood to the west, turned left on Garrison, and then left on Morrison Road. You can enter the park that way, straight-in eastbound on Morrison, or with a right turn off northbound Wadsworth. The alternative for southbound Wads would be a U-turn at Yale. Arriving at the park, there is a parking lot paved with gravel, seemingly about a foot deep as our little car struggled to wade through it. I suppose it will pack down soon enough.

The parking lot is well situated as an overlook itself, and the main path for walking and biking starts from there. The path is eight feet wide, and a sign tells us the round-trip length on the main path is a little over three quarters of a mile. You can have a longer walk by venturing out to the two overlooks connected by gravel-paved spurs off the concrete path, or by taking one of the natural-surface trails that connect to the main path. Wherever you are in the park, the views are superb. It is good to know, though, if you are endurance-limited, that the first part of the trip from the parking lot is an easy walk, all downhill. Easy-walking or coasting smoothly along, you will at some point come to the realization that when it comes to elevation, what goes down must surely have to climb back up.

Any way you do it, it’s a good walk. You can get a printable copy of the park map here.


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Meet Your Neighbors: The De Lay Family

Meet Your Neighbors: The De Lay Family

When I went to meet Tim and Kristen we sat and talked in one of the many Southern Gables parks. A beautiful park – happy bees checking out the plentiful flowers, birds visiting occasionally to twitter from the trees, and a gentle breeze flowing through the leaves on the mild summer afternoon. Did you know there are beautiful parks in Southern Gables? This one is in the De Lays’ yard. Not surprising, since we know Kristen is an expert gardener, and has in fact shared her expertise with us in weekly articles on several occasions. Interview by Bruce McDonald

Bruce: You told me once before that you have lived here in Southern Gables since 2016. Tell us, what brought you to the neighborhood and where did you come here from?

Tim: I was living in Denver, and Kristen was in Aurora. When we got together we both understood the parameters; I wanted to be on the west side of the metro area and Kristen would get to choose based on the schools. So, you’re both Colorado natives?  No, I’m from Wisconsin, and… Kristen: I’m from Texas.

Kristen and Tim De LayKristen: We had looked at so many houses, but just hadn’t found “the one”. It was getting close to the start of school, and we needed to find a house quickly. Luckily, our house on Warren became available, after a previous offer didn’t go through. We were able to see it that night and we put an offer in immediately. When we found this neighborhood it was a hidden gem – so beautiful! And Green Gables Elementary, such a great little school, perfect for our kids. They were in third and fourth grades.

What are a few things that you like the most about the Southern Gables community?  Tim: I like the wide streets, the big trees, and the neighbors are so friendly. We felt so at home and welcomed from the start. It’s such a great place to raise kids. They could always walk or bike to school, and Green Gables is such a great school. Kristen: When they got to middle school they would bike to Carmody. Now they’re in Bear Creek High School. It’s great that Porter can drive now, though the bus ride was pretty convenient. He and Georgia are thriving at Bear Creek, especially with the high quality of the music programs. Are they both involved in music?  Oh yes, and that makes us “band parents.” That’s a commitment for sure. They are both in the marching band in season, and “winter percussion” the rest of the year. Porter has been taking piano lessons since he was nine,1 and they have both played all kinds of instruments as well as singing in choirs. Georgia’s love is the oboe, and she performs in the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.

Do you have a favorite memory with your Southern Gables neighbors?  Kristen: We love the Neighborhood Night Out, and the way the neighborhood comes together for that. Tim:  And  I remember the time they did a recognition event for the original homeowners, when the neighborhood celebrated the 50-year anniversary. That was terrific. It was so great seeing the pictures from when it was all new, reading the stories, seeing the old sales brochures for the homes. Our house is one of those originals built in 1967, the “Charleston” model.

Bee Safe

What is the most neighborly experience you’ve had or seen in our neighborhood?  Kristen: Well, I have a lot of “neighborly” experiences with the things that Sustainable Southern Gables does, and the “Bee Safe” program. That’s something that I love contributing to, and it’s good for all of us. I’m getting together tomorrow with a neighbor who wants to make her yard more bee-friendly. To join in the program it involves some education and taking a pledge, and there are neighbors with more experience who encourage and help with good practices for the environment.

How about hobbies, leisure time? Your work?  Kristen: Well, look around. I am really interested in gardening, especially with native plants. My goal is to create an ecosystem in my yard. We both work out twice a week. and walk a lot. The neighborhood is great for walking; everyone is so friendly. For work, I am a consultant for a digital analytics agency, so they can empower their data for marketing. Tim: During COVID, my work was forced indoors and we were all working from our basements, unable to get out and have normal connections. I needed to do something different, work with my hands. I bought a Toyota RAV4 – the first generation model – and rebuilt it. I’m not a mechanic, but I figure things out. Now I like to buy them, get parts from junkyards and fix them up, and sell them. Well, maybe not sell every one; right now I have five. I love those RAV4s – but just the first-gen ones. Kind of a narrow niche, isn’t it?  You’d think so, but it’s not. I run a Facebook special interest page for RAV4 GEN 1 enthusiasts. It has 20,000 members! And work, I love my work. I do special live events. The parade for the Nuggets? That was mine, part of my work as Senior Director of Operations for Altitude Sports. The big games: Avalanche, Nuggets, Rams? I’m there. My team does the behind-the-scenes work, making things come together right for what you see on the screen. I love it. Kristen: And guitars… Tim: Oh yes, I collect guitars. I used to write music and I played in bands all through high school and college, bass and guitar. I’m an old rocker as you can see.

Um, yes, sure. I can see that. In closing, do you have any advice for us, or things you want to pass down to future generations?  Kristen: Connecting with people is so important. It’s what makes any place great. Tim: A great way to do that here is to go to Neighborhood Night Out.

I agree! And that’s August 25, right? Here in Southern Gables, at the Green Gables Elementary School campus? I’ll mark my calendar!

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