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Cent$ible Healthy Eating


Karla Case admits she wasn’t always a master chef.

When the dietitian began teaching Wyoming residents how to cook healthy meals from scratch for the Cent$ible Nutrition Program, Case had perhaps five go-to recipes she regularly whipped up.

Seven years later, Case is a professional in the kitchen, showing her students how to buy and prepare dozens of affordable and healthy meals and snacks. Part of the University of Wyoming, the program is designed to help people who are at risk of becoming food insecure learn how to manage food budgets, find healthy food and prepare nutritious meals, often from scratch. 

While providing a few budgeting tips helps students, the cooking lessons are what really transforms families’ lives, Case notes.

“Until we actually show them what we are talking about, they aren’t going to learn it,” she says. “Some of them don’t have much experience in the kitchen at all.”

Eating healthy might not always be more expensive, but it does require a lot more effort — especially in low-income communities, which often lack access to a grocery store or other source of fresh, healthy food. In weekly classes, Case and her fellow instructors explain to students how to shop for ingredients and navigate grocery aisles to “get more nutrition for [their] dollar.”

Then the group heads into the kitchen, where Case shows them how to put everything together. They tend to avoid pre-packaged meals, which are often contain unhealthy additives and usually aren’t the cheaper option. “Cooking from scratch is the best way to know where your food comes from,” Case says.

Case says much of her instruction is teaching people to go “back to basics.” She teaches her students, many of them young working mothers with not a ton of free time, to prepare healthier meals in larger quantities that can be frozen and quickly reheated. Many of her recipes use a “master mix” that can be made into a variety of meals.

Along with providing cooking classes, the Cent$ible Nutrition Program is featured regularly on local news outlets, where Case or her colleagues do a demonstration of healthy recipes for viewers. The program also provides demonstrations at schools and in community health centers.

Case says the education that the program provides is just one part of the puzzle needed to reduce obesity, but she says she’s optimistic that progress is being made.

“We’re getting a lot more pathways in our communities, we’re getting more people walking. We had the addition of a farmer’s market,” she says. “We’re seeing a lot of strides… I tend to think we’re seeing an improvement.”

Click here to connect with Karla Case.

Don't miss the rest of the Inside Track! Click here to find out why two Leaders believe a new study shows there's a strong link between food insecurity and obesity. Plus: Get information about an upcoming webinar looking at how health advocates are collaborating online.