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A BeWell Kitchen teaching kitchen session at a Presbyterian Manors of Mid America senior community.

Cura BeWell program expands with education component

BeWell Kitchen teaching kitchen program stresses both fun and functional foods to encourage healthier dining choices.

Management company Cura Hospitality’s BeWell wellness initiative, a behavior-based, nudging approach that helps senior living community residents achieve their personal health and wellness goals by making the healthy choice an easy choice, has been taking off with company chefs and dietitians committed to the BeWell philosophy.

For example, Cura Corporate Executive Chef Lance Franklin, who drastically changed his eating habits and mindset 13 years ago to get back to a healthy weight, now helps residents, guests and team members at the healthcare and senior-living operations he manages for Cura in Texas, Louisiana and Florida achieve their wellness goals by planning menus, dining experiences and culinary demos that incorporate a small dose of nutrition education.

“I’m a pescatarian and try to eat as clean as I can,” he says. “I teach my chefs and cooks how to reduce meat on the plate and make substitutions. As a chef, you can improve your eating habits by experimenting. You never run out of options.”

For menu planning, Franklin has introduced healthier versions of favorites like mushroom lasagna instead of meat lasagna and turkey burgers as a substitute for beef burgers. Together with Chris Greve, corporate director of culinary operations for Cura in the East, Franklin also developed anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting spice blends to season these dishes and promote BeWell recipes that focus on plant-forward preparations.


BeWell Kitchen samples and take-home materials at a session held at Homestead Village Enhanced Senior Living in Lancaster, Pa.

Featured BeWell dining experiences like the BeWell Kitchen teaching kitchen are also offered by chefs and dietitians as a live learning workshop connecting food and health. The teaching kitchen concept was established by the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2016 to enhance personal and public health across communities through a live learning laboratory or kitchen.

Adopted from a teaching kitchen created by the culinary team at the FM Best Concept Award winning Presbyterian Senior Living at Westminster Woods at Huntingdon in Pennsylvania, the BeWell Kitchen is designed to support a promotions element within the BeWell Wellness Framework, which recognizes that providing education is a powerful tool to nudge our guests to make healthier choices.  The BeWell Kitchen offers both an interaction and hands-on learning experience through preparing a BeWell recipe and provides senior living residents with take-home recipes and nutrition information.

Cura designed these culinary educational opportunities to help connect participants to the concept of functional and fun foods—foods that offer a “functional” benefit beyond basic nutrition in a way that supports health and prevents disease. In addition to instructions on how to present and promote, key elements of each workshop include chef explanation and demonstration of how to prepare a recipe and featured functional food, hands-on food preparation by some or all participants, a registered dietitian nutritionist presentation of the recipe’s functional food components along with other nutrition information related to the recipe, a take-home recipe card with nutrition facts that include the health benefits of the functional foods it incorporates and marketing tools like a backdrop, banners, and print and digital ads.

Chef_Chris_&_Chef_Lance.jpgPhoto: Cura Corporate Executive Chef Lance Franklin (l.) teamed with Chris Greve, corporate director of culinary operations, to develop anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting spice blends to season BeWell dishes and promote BeWell recipes that focus on plant-forward preparations.

Recently, the BeWell Kitchen program launched at Presbyterian Manors of Mid America (PMMA) at Wichita and Parsons Presbyterian Manors, both in Kansas, to coincide with their openings as Cura clients and to show how its teams create “fun with food” (the remainder of the PMMA communities in Missouri and Kansas will experience the BeWell Kitchen by the end of 2022). At the events, residents of all levels of care enjoyed various serving bowls with prepared ingredients set up in front of groups of 10-15 residents, such as zucchini, summer squash, peppers, pine nuts, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, chicken pieces, and peach vinaigrette dressing for the summer chicken salad recipe.

“I worked with the community’s life enrichment director to coordinate a time between lunch and dinner, and gave residents enough time to rsvp for this engaging event,” explains Regional Dietitian/Menu Manager Torehn Windt.

The food was prepped by Windt, along with David Wills, director of culinary for Cura at PMMA. “The summer chicken salad recipe gave residents the opportunity to toss their own salad with us, Windt observes. “For those residents who didn’t participate, we had tasters so they could sample and observe.”

Residents also received laminated recipe cards so they can easily replicate them in their homes.

At Homestead Village Enhanced Senior Living in Lancaster, Pa., a BeWell Kitchen wellness fair featured services like the pharmacy, rehabilitation and healthy living eating where residents sampled healthier snacks like matcha chia pudding & coconut and date energy balls, learned about the health & wellness benefits of Cura’s homemade spices, and overall, how to select the healthier options. 

BeWell Kitchens can also be scaled down to a smaller informative demo, such as the one recently presented at Providence Point in Pittsburgh by Executive Chef Caleb Hicks and Dietitian Jillian Wagner, who focused their demonstration on the hydration and nutritional benefits of the perfect summertime cucumber watermelon shaker salad.

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