Healthy cooking spreads to Summit area with new classes

SUMMIT, NJ — Karin Von Zelowitz is a Summit resident who teaches healthy cooking classes at Peasful Kitchen, in Summit. She was raised on a farm in Sweden, where her mother taught her about farm-to-table cooking. Von Zelowitz continues cooking for her family in that way to this day.

“Farm-to-table cooking is when you cook with local products as fresh from the farm as possible,” Von Zelowitz told LocalSource in an email Feb. 3. “Often these products are found as CSA, farmers markets or if restaurants buy straight from the source. It can from be the farmer, the fisherman, the brewery — so not strictly the farm, more the producer. It often also means that you can trace where the food comes from, which consumers want to know today. I grew up on a farm in Sweden where farm-to-table was a way of living. We had chickens; each year we had a calf that we butchered by the end of the year and my parents bought a whole pig each year. We had a vegetable garden and fruit trees and berries. Looking back now, it was a very idyllic upbringing.”

Von Zelowitz is a frequent shopper at the Summit Farmer’s Market. She goes almost once every week to buy food to prepare for her family.

“Now when I have my own family I like to still use local food when possible and we try to eat according to the season,” Von Zelowitz said. “This time of the year it is obviously harder. There is a great farmer’s market here in Summit which I visit almost every week. Another aspect of farm-to-table or local is the environmental aspect that eating something that has travelled across the globe is not so appealing to me.”

Von Zelowitz is a licensed dietician and former chef for the Swedish Ambassador in Switzerland. She runs her own nutrition consulting business called Nordic Health and Wellness.

“First I studied Food Management and then I worked as a chef for the Swedish Ambassador in Switzerland for six years and then I moved back to Sweden to become a dietitian,” Von Zelowitz said. “I like to eat a diet with a lot of vegetables, fruit, whole grain, low fat dairy, good fats and lean protein and fish.

Of course, I do eat sweets as well. If you eat a balanced diet, there is also room for that sometimes. Nowadays we need to take the portion sizes into account.

They have grown so much that we almost forgot what a normal portion look like. Try and compare a dinner plate from the 1940s to today’s huge dishes.”

Von Zelowtiz reports that picky eaters are usually one of the biggest obstacles families encounter when they try to cook healthy meals.

“Picky eating is usually a phase and kids learn from a very early stage that they can use food as a power tool,” Von Zelowitz said. “Parents get worried if their children don’t eat and maybe make them something else and then the child has quickly learned that if he or she neglects a dish, that something else will be prepared. This can turn into a pattern that’s hard to break. Parents should decide what, where and when food will be eaten. Children can decide if they want to eat and how much. Allowing children to help prepare a meal is another way to help with their pickiness.”

Not all family members are confident in the kitchen, and some might need more assistance than others. Von Zelowitz says keeping it simple in the kitchen is a way to start building confidence as a cook.

“I think starting with some simple dishes with a few ingredients is a good idea,” Von Zelowitz said. “The recipes we use in our classes are perfect examples of dishes that easily can be made at home. They don’t have a ton of ingredients and they also don’t take hours to cook. In the beginning, it is a good idea to follow recipes so you get more confident and then once you master them you can try and experiment more. Nowadays there are also many meal services that offer simple meal solutions, easy recipes and all the ingredients are individually packed. It is a pricy option so not for everyone.”

Time management is also important for working families with busy lifestyles. Finding time during the week to cook can be challenging.

“Having good meal plan routines is absolutely necessary,” Von Zelowtiz sad. “Do some meal prep over the weekends. Cooking skills are also something that is lacking today. Most schools don’t have home economics anymore and that is where I got some basic skills on how to cook.”

When it comes to eating organic, Von Zelowitz says that it’s a personal choice.
“It’s more expensive to eat organic,” Von Zelowitz said. “I don’t recommend that my clients eat organic; it’s a personal choice. The ‘dirty dozen’ and ‘clean fifteen’ are good tools to use. At the end of the day, it’s better to eat a conventional carrot than not one at all. Personally, we eat mostly organic dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables. Although, when there are local options I go for them instead.”

A few items from the “clean fifteen” list include produce with tough, thick skin such as avocados, corn, pineapple, cabbage and eggplant. The “dirty dozen” list contains produce with thin or edible skins such as strawberries, apples, peaches, celery and grapes. The lists were compiled by the Environmental Working Group to reveal the produce treated with the least and most pesticides. The lists can be found at the EWG’s website,

There are many different diets that people follow and everyone seems to have their own opinion as to what it means to eat healthy. While it can become complicated, Von Zelowtiz says it’s best to keep it simple.

“So many people follow different diets whether they need to or not, but they believe that it is good for them,” Von Zelowitz said. “Food is a topic that people are engaged in and everyone has opinions. There is so much information about food everywhere as to what is right or wrong, what diet to follow etc. To some point, I think it is very confusing. What we do is sort of go back to basics again by cooking from whole foods and fresh ingredients, the way it used to be. Doing that is comforting and you know what you are eating.”