Chris Haywood is a nutritional chef and fitness trainer in Austin, TX. He is the founder of Injoy Foods – a one-stop-shop for home delivered healthy meals, nutrition information, and personal training services in Austin. On top of that, Chris just became a new dad.
This spring Chris volunteered his time to become an A Taste of African Heritage instructor at Austin’s Sustainable Food Center, a nonprofit organization delivering fresh food access, gardening and nutrition education, and cooking classes in their state of the art teaching kitchen to the Austin community.
Last week, I got the chance to attend Chris’ finale lesson in his six-week series – Lesson 6: Fruits, Vegetables and a Healthy Lifestyle. Chris greeted his students while prepping for the evening’s lesson, washing fresh herbs and chopping up fresh mango chunks. His class consisted of nine adult students who, over the last five weeks, had learned how to prepare healthier snacks and meals together. Fellowship around good health and food filled the air along with the fragrant aromas of mango, mint, lemon and cilantro.
Chris started class by walking the group through the African Heritage Diet Pyramid, calling out the various food groups the class had explored over the last five weeks and listing all the dishes they had shared together. He asked his students to share their favorites. Many of them loved trying quinoa and millet for the first time, others found a new appreciation for sweet potatoes, and one mentioned the spicy chickpeas recipes from Lesson 1.
In the midst of this discussion, Chris made a simple, but profound statement that I’ll never forget: "Remember,” he reminded his group, “don’t count calories, count colors!". What Chris meant was, don’t worry so much about the calories on your plate, but make sure you’ve included as many different colors as possible — green especially, red, orange, purple/blue, white — to ensure you’re eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits and getting plenty of nutrients at every meal. This is an important, defining aspect of the African Heritage Diet: Incorporating as many plant-based, whole foods as possible into one’s daily menu. The class loved this perspective.
Then Chris discussed the traditional role of fruits and vegetables in the diets and health of the African diaspora, which was very powerful and moving. He walked his class through a healthy lifestyle exercise that asked students to take a minute to check in with themselves to see what areas of life could use some extra TLC. The energy in the room kind of hushed as everyone concentrated on their list from relationships and physical fitness to spirituality and self-esteem. Another beautiful moment.
Lesson 6 discusses the role of fresh fruit as a staple dessert throughout the African diaspora, often called “After-Chop.” In addition to the After-Chop Fruit Salad recipe in the curriculum, Chris took the opportunity to make a couple of other fruit salads to show the versatility of African heritage fruit, combining citrus fruits, avocado, mango, mint, cilantro, and a simple citrus dressing with olive oil for amazing results. Each salad took him a mere 5 minutes to make, and they tasted oh-so gourmet!
We’re thrilled to share a slice of the A Taste of African Heritage program with you and our “After-Chop” recipe. We hope you enjoy it as a delicious summertime dessert, snack or even breakfast this season!