Food and Nutrition, and Hospitality and Villa Services students at the Marcus Garvey Technical High School in St. Ann have been exposed to innovative ways of preparing meals without salt, in commemoration of Salt Awareness week.
The initiative saw chefs from Sandals Ocho Rios visiting the institution on March 10 to demonstrate alternative approaches to meal preparation to help improve public health – by shaking the salt habit.
Salt Awareness Week 2022 is being observed from March 14 to 20, under the theme ‘Shake the Salt Habit’.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults consume fewer than five grams of sodium (just under one teaspoon of salt) per day for basic life functions.
The WHO also states that reducing salt intake has been identified as one of the most cost-effective measures countries can take to improve population health outcomes.
Diets high in salt increase an individual’s risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular diseases.
Speaking with JIS News, Executive Chef at Sandals Ocho Rios, Rodroy Thomas, says he was pleased to share with the students why reducing the salt content of meals served in restaurants and in their diet is essential.
He notes that with the high number of hypertensive Jamaicans and people worldwide, it is increasingly important for players in the food preparation industry to deliver on their nutritional concerns.
“We have senior citizens who are suffering from hypertension, and we want to introduce the non-use of salt in their diet. We try to use interesting ways of using local ingredients to enhance the palates of everyday society. So, what we did was use local ingredients
and try to incorporate potent flavours that would add value and more flavour, so you don’t miss out on the salt usage,” he says.
“Whatever we consume today probably affects us tomorrow, and further down the road you will be probably spending lots of money for doctor bills. The food we consume on a daily basis is the best medication, so choose it wisely,” he adds,
For his part, Sandals Ocho Rios Sous Chef, Paul Pryce, reminded students that high sodium intake poses many health risks, noting that he was pleased that students were receptive of the information imparted.
“We are just promoting the health benefits of not having any sodium in their diets, because hypertension is one of the leading causes of heart disease in today’s society and we want people to know that they can actually have palatable food without having to consume a lot of salt or any salt any at all,” he shares.
The team prepared a meal with all-Jamaican spices for the students.
“There was no salt [in the meal], and as you can see, they really enjoyed the meal that we provided,” Mr. Pryce said.
Head of Human Ecology at the Marcus Garvey Technical High School, Charmaine Brown-Henry, says the students benefited greatly from the initiative, as the activities were in line with aspects of the curriculum.
“Most of our students are sitting Food and Nutrition in CXC and the others are doing Hospitality and Villa Services, so for Sandals to come here and share how not to use salt in the diet, that’s great for them because that question actually comes on the CXC examination when they talk about special diets and persons who should not eat salt, so that comes in handy,” Mrs. Brown-Henry says.
The students are also grateful for the experience, which they say will benefit them in their studies and careers.
Grade-12 student Lyshell Bennett says the session was informative.
“I benefited from the activities because I learned a lot of things. I learned how to hold the knife properly to cut what is needed to be cut; I learned how to do a flambé. I learned at what temperature to cook certain meats and fish. My takeaway is the ingredients you can use to substitute salt that actually adds flavour to your dish,” she shares.
Another grade-12 student, Kahlia Woolery, tells JIS News that she left the session with new skills that she will be putting into practice.
“The experience was very amazing; it expands my knowledge towards cooking to a certain level without salt,” she says.