For many people looking to lose weight, a trip to the dietitian can be cause for dread. No-one wants to live on lettuce leaves and mineral water.
But Emma Schwartzkoff from Port Macquarie’s Healthier You Dietetics has a reassuring message: healthy eating need not be boring.
“A lot of dietitians have a passion for food as much as a passion for health,” she says. “My attitude is that if you love all food, then you’ll eat a variety of it, and that is the essence of healthy eating.”
Emma and her fiancé, Port Macquarie GP Andriy Boyko, recently spent a year travelling the world. In every country they visited, they took a cooking class.
They learnt to make fresh pasta in Italy, sweet semolina halva in Turkey, and tomato-and-cinnamon rooster in Greece. In Nepal, they convinced a hotelier's wife to open her private kitchen and teach them to make momo dumplings, a local specialty.
Often, their fellow pupils would ask about Australian cuisine.
“People would say to us, ‘Australia doesn’t really have a national cuisine, does it?’” Emma said.
“It got me thinking about it, but it also made me sad, because Australia has what I think is the best food culture in the world.”
On returning home to Port Macquarie, she decided to combine her experience as a dietitian and her passion for food by opening her own cooking school. The Tucker Table offers a variety of classes, celebrating Port Macquarie produce and promoting healthy eating.
Emma has based many of her classes on questions she is often asked by patients. From February, she will offer cooking lessons for diabetics, classes on heart-friendly meals and sessions on squeezing more vegetables into the diet.
“Very few meet the daily requirements,” she says. “But vegetables are so delicious. If you teach people to cook them in an interesting, yummy way, they’re more likely to eat them.”
There will be courses for young people leaving home for the first time, for the time-poor, and for empty-nesters, many of whom struggle to cook for one or two after years of cooking for a large family.
For visitors to Port Macquarie, The Tucker Table runs classes focused on Australian cuisine, with menus featuring dishes such as damper burgers, seared kangaroo and macadamia salad, whole snapper with ginger and spring onions, and pavlova.
“Australian cuisine is shaped by our beautiful, fresh produce, multicultural influences – especially from the Mediterranean and Asia – and our weather and culture. Outdoor eating is a major aspect,” she says.
“Fresh seafood is integral, too. When I ask my patients how often they eat fish, the answer is whenever they catch it.”
See thetuckertable.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org