Gina Paterno Villalobos, founder of Gina’s Organic Kitchen, will be our guest chef at the Allergy-Free Cooking Demonstration from 10 to 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 14, at the Ronald McDonald House in Dallas (4707 Bengal St.). I caught up with Gina to find out more about her personal journey to holistic nutrition and how families can eat healthy, allergy-free meals by incorporating key ingredients.
RSVP for the Allergy-Free Cooking Demonstration via email to FoodAllergy@childrens.com (adults only please).
What can you tell us about your personal journey to holistic nutrition?
Gina: I was diagnosed with high-risk breast cancer 10 years ago and used the natural healing powers of organic whole foods to detoxify and rebuild my immune system from all the harsh chemotherapy treatments. My husband and I realized all the benefits from choosing the right foods – we even were able to stop taking high blood pressure medication and lost weight. At that point, I decided to pursue studies for myself and completed a career training program. I realized my passion had changed and decided not to go back to the corporate world and instead to be an organic health coach. I am basic trained in how to cook with whole foods and have a very holistic view.
Why are you participating in the Food Allergy Cooking Demonstration?
Gina: For me, it is all about inspiring and empowering others. I had specific training in holistic nutrition and cooking with allergies, and I am passionate about helping people stay healthier. To me it is important because children are our future. Oftentimes, it is difficult for families to come up with new ideas for meals. I hope to bring a different angle to cooking for allergies and help people learn the impact of foods and why we are cooking with specific items.
What are the keys to cooking for children with food allergies?
Gina: When making dietary changes for children, they need to understand the importance of the changes before they are made. Support is vital, because if children have specific allergies, they can be so severe that the allergies are limiting socially and impacting the children psychologically and emotionally. Also, parents can make it easier on themselves by being more consistent. If a child has certain favorite foods, they can try to find a way to adapt the favorites so the child doesn’t feel like it’s a 180 degree turn and so the change doesn’t feel as massive.
What do you hope people take away from the cooking demonstration?
Gina: I hope people realize that wholesome, healthy food can be easy and really taste good. I focus on organic whole food, so we will not be using any dairy or foods with sugars. The demonstration will not only be recipes but will include health education so everyone learns about the ingredients from an eastern and western perspective. I like to think of it as food for thought – it doesn’t just please the palate but also makes people think. My goal is to raise their interest beyond a savory sensation and help them develop a passion to experiment more with whole foods. We will be using key superfoods, such as kale, chia seeds and quinoa, which are most nutrient dense.