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Healthy alternatives in food choices during the lockdown

Community 11 May, 2020 Follow News

Healthy alternatives in food choices during the lockdown

Mr. Wayne Jackson – UCCI Director School of Hospitality Studies

Ms. Tanique Dunbar – UCCI Senior Lecturer School of Hospitality Studies

Vegetable Pearl Barley Sauté

Cabbage and Apple Flatbread Sandwich

Cabbage and Apple Flatbread Sandwich

By UCCI Marketing, PR & Alumni Office


An interview with UCCI Faculty:

Mr. Wayne Jackson – UCCI Director School of Hospitality Studies

Ms. Tanique Dunbar – UCCI Senior Lecturer School of Hospitality Studies


No, that bag of potato chips is not your friend, no matter what it seems to be saying to you.

Experts at the University College of the Cayman Islands say there are healthy alternatives to the comfort foods many may have turned to in recent weeks with the stress and limited mobility imposed by coronavirus restrictions.

Limited access to grocery shopping has also made it more of a challenge to make sure there are nutritious foods at the ready as we hunker down in our homes and sink into our couches. On top of that, some households are dealing with reduced incomes.

“Eating healthy has always been more expensive,” said Wayne Jackson, head of UCCI’s School of Hospitality. “But we have to try to make sure we can eat healthy.”

Careful planning, disciplined shopping, creative preparation and portion control all play a role in keeping metabolism up and extra pounds at bay during what for many is a more sedentary period, said Jackson, who has a master’s degree in management information from the University of Delaware. He suggests taking inventory of the food you have on hand, planning low calorie/high protein meals, making a shopping list and sticking to it.

“Do not pick up things that are not on your list,” Jackson said. “Be disciplined enough to just buy the things you need.” Follow that up with discipline in the kitchen. “When you come home to prepare your meals, you have to look at portion size,” he said. “Eat with greater consideration. “We also need to shop with greater consideration, he added. Ideally, because of social distancing measures, people should be buying groceries as infrequently as possible. That means more frozen foods are likely in order, since fresh produce and meats have a limited shelf life.

UCCI’s Tanique Dunbar, a lecturer in the hospitality program, teaches students the fundamentals of food and beverages and food preparation. She said grains and beans are also a good way to stretch a dollar and make sure you are getting your protein. Things such as lentils, peas, garbanzo beans, along with cereals such as barley, bulgur and rice are good staples to rely on.

“You can be quite creative with them,” Dunbar said. “You can braise your barley and mix it with vegetables. “Fruits are also important,” she added. “But I would say go with the frozen fruits and make smoothies. You could also poach it and make it into a reduction. You could use it with your pancakes and waffles. I also put them into baked products.

When it comes to fresh produce, she said, broccoli, carrots and corn have longer shelf lives than many other vegetables. “I also use beet roots and cabbage. Those seem to keep longer,” she said. And tofu, she added, typically packed in brine, doesn’t spoil quickly.

There are also ways in which you can make preparing such food more nutritious. For instance, Jackson said, when fixing rice on the stove top, pour off some of the water you’re using to boil it. Along with the water, you’ll be pouring off some of the starch in the grain. He also suggests pouring off the water when boiling fish -- an element in many Caymanian dishes -- to lower the salt content in the resulting broth. If you’re baking bread, especially something like banana bread, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, he said, and, if you’ve been buying whole milk, consider switching to reduced fat milk to eliminate some calories.

“Take small steps at this time,” he said. It’s a good time to add to your food preparation skills, Jackson said, and he suggested searching out YouTube videos to expand your repertoire in the kitchen.

“When this passes,” he said of the pandemic, “we can take that forward, so we don’t fall back into our old routines and we can live a healthier lifestyle.”


Suggested Recipes for healthy eating

Vegetable Pearl Barley Sauté


• 1 cup barley

• 3 cups water

• ¼ cup corn kernels

• ¼ cup broccoli

• ¼ cup corn small diced

• ¼ cup trail mix

• 2 tbsp garlic

• 2 tbsp ginger

• ½ medium onion medium dice

• 2 tbsp sesame oil (canola or vegetable can be used as substitute)

• ½ tsp salt (optional)



1. Place water in a sauce pot and bring to a boil, add barley and cook until soft and chewy for 30 minutes (note: if the water dries out and the desired texture is not reached, add water and continue boiling)

2. Drain barley in a colander, run under cold water to cool and stop the cooking process

3. Set the barley mixture a side

4. In a skillet heat oil, add onion, ginger, garlic and onion, sauté for 3 minutes

5. Add broccoli, corn, carrot to the skillet and sauté for an additional 5 minutes

6. Add the cooked barley, salt and trail mix and sauté for 10 minutes

7. Remove from stove and serve

Note: quinoa, millet, bulgur or couscous can be used as substitutes for the barley


Cabbage and Apple Flatbread Sandwich


Cabbage Mix/ Filling:

• 1 cup cabbage finely julienne/ shredded

• ¼ cup green apples Julienne

• ¼ cup onions finely diced

• 2 tbsp olive oil


• Olive oil

• Apple cider vinegar

• Honey

• Ground pepper

• Pinch salt

(note to make the vinaigrette use three-parts oil to one-part vinegar)


Flatbread or Pita Bread



1. Blend all vinaigrette ingredients together in a blender

2. Heat a skillet caramelize onions with olive oil

3. Add the cabbage and sauté for 3 minutes (do not cook thoroughly, allow the texture to be al dente)

4. Add apples and sauté for a minute (apples can be presoaked in apple cider vinegar to prevent discoloration and for added flavor)

5. Remove mixture from the stove

6. Toast the flat bread

7. Add filling and drizzle some vinaigrette

Note: addition can be made, grilled chicken, roasted garbanzo beans etc.


Coconut Flavored Polenta


• 2 cups of coarse cornmeal

• 1 can of full fat coconut milk

• 2 cups of water

• 1 small onion finely diced

• 3 escallion chopped

• 2 garlic cloves minced

• ½ yellow capsicum

• ½ orange capsicum

• 1 large tomato chopped

• 4 sprigs of thyme stem

• 1 tsp black pepper

• 2 tbsp of dairy butter

• 2 tbsp oil



1. Mix together cornmeal with the water to form a smooth liquid paste then set aside.

2. In a heated skillet, add olive oil, sauté the onion, escallion and garlic until soft and translucent.

3. Add the capsicum, tomato and thyme and sauté for 3 minutes

4. Add the coconut milk and the butter

5. Allow the coconut milk to simmer for 2 minutes

6. Add the cornmeal mixture slowly while mixing to prevent the mixture from clumping (the mixture should be smooth and creamy)

7. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cook for 10 minutes,

8. Transfer the mixture to the oven and cook for another 35 minutes stirring the mixture every 10 minutes.

9. Serve when done.

Notes: This dish can be served with any stew: saltfish rundown, stewed fish, braised beans, curried chicken etc.


Other food Items one can utilize while at home:

• Frozen breads: pita, flat, loaf etc.

• Frozen Fruits can be used to make healthy popsicles for children (snack and treat)

• Dried beans: lentils, garbanzo beans, splits peas, kidney beans (good for stews soups and salads)

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