Monique Snipe helps her son Mekhi, 3, spread fresh-made hummus onto a tortilla at the monthly mommy and me cooking class on March 17. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The article below can be found at The Day newspaper’s website
As the registered dietitian at ShopRite of New London, part of Kaitlin Bennett’s job is showing kids how to make healthy snacks. Since her March Mommy & Me class fell on St. Patrick’s Day, everything had to be green.
That day, 4-year-old Brynn Hickey and 3-year-old Mehki Snipe helped Bennett measure out ingredients for homemade hummus, which would act as the “glue” for their green veggie cones. With some help from their mothers, the two children carefully arranged cucumber, carrot and the green pepper in the hummus before rolling up the wraps to eat.
Bennett came to New London last fall after working as a registered dietitian at a ShopRite in New Jersey. She said she grew up in a household that emphasized healthy eating, and she started considering it as a career when she ran cross-country in high school.
“That’s when I started to notice a physical difference in my performance depending on if I had hydrated properly, what I had eaten, so that’s kind of when it all connected for me,” she said.
She started talking to area professionals in high school and made a nutrition fair for kids for her Girl Scout Gold Award, which further solidified her interest in the field.
Registered dietitians work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, and customers often ask Bennett about nutritional advice specific to medical issues such as weight loss and diabetes. In the store, however, she helps people make lifestyle changes while they’re making their food choices. On a given day, she may be leading a class, hosting healthy food demonstrations in the store or providing one-on-one counseling.
“Most of what I do is from a preventative standpoint. We’re teaching people how to make changes now,” she said. Whereas a hospital dietitian is advising a patient on what they should eat when they’re already sick, Bennett is able to reach people before they get to that point, she said.
Like the all-green class on March 17, Bennett said she tries to pick recipes related to events such as the Super Bowl or National Nutrition Month. Some recipes go over better than others, especially with the younger crowd, but it’s all hands-on to get adults and kids alike involved in their dietary choices.
“Sometimes parents who have pickier eaters like to come to the classes because maybe we’re cooking with something they wouldn’t try at home,” she said. “But if they’re more engaged in it and feeling like they’re involved in creating it, they’re more likely to give it a try.”
Brynn’s mother, also Brynn Hickey, said she had seen posters advertising Bennett’s services but hadn’t known about the classes until her mother mentioned them. The younger Brynn wanted a mother-daughter day, so the two came to the class and talked about green apples and other favorite green foods with Mekhi and his mother, Monique. The Snipes also attended February’s class and made a fruit bouquet.
In addition to the in-house services for ShopRite customers and staff, Bennett also visits libraries, schools, Scout troops and other community groups. She said that when she first started, she would go out to spread the word about ShopRite’s programs, but now people come to her to schedule events or discussions.
For information about the ShopRite dietitian program, visit www.shoprite.com/dietitian or call Bennett at (860) 949-0025.