UC Food Safety
University of California
UC Food Safety

Senior citizens get nutrition primer from UC program

Lela Rigdon, 93, left, and Nellie Rios, 90, try a 'monster smoothie' at UC CalFresh class.
Alice Escalante is something of a circuit rider in Tulare County. A UC nutrition educator, Escalante travels to rural communities, seeking out groups of low-income senior citizens to offer education that will spur healthier eating.

“I've reached more than 500 adults in the last year – in places like Exeter, Porterville, Cutler and Goshen,” Escalante said. “I go to senior centers, churches, welfare-to-work programs.”

Escalante visits each facility four times for one-hour sessions that include lessons from UC's research-based “Plan, Shop, Save, Cook” curriculum, plus physical activity and a cooking demonstration. Last week, Escalante presented the training to senior citizens in Exeter, a city of 10,000 near the Sierra Nevada foothills.

“When I go around the valley to different sites, a lot of people are familiar with ranch,” Escalante said holding up a bottle of dressing. “They like ranch, they use ranch for everything – pizza, fries, chicken wings and then we drench it on our salads. But did you know just two tablespoons is 160 calories. What if we switched it up, and tried a little honey mustard dressing? Two tablespoons is only 70 calories.”

Escalante explained the difference between good fats and bad fats and she taught the participants best practices for budget-minded grocery shopping.

Look at quantity, store-brand products and convenience to find savings, Escalante advised. Buying in bulk is often cheaper, but for seniors living alone, it may not be the most economical choice.

“You have to look at the size of your household,” Escalante said. “If we are going to save a few pennies buying the larger amount, but it's going to go to waste, it's not worth it. You have to look at the unit price, but also your household.

After leading the nutrition lesson, Escalante encouraged everyone to move to the beat of a Latin tune.

"Come on everybody, let's get up," she called. "You can do it sitting down. If you're sitting down, use your hands. If you can stand, go around in circles."

To close the class, Escalante whipped up a “monster smoothie,” which looks like “something that oozed out of a swamp, but tastes great and has monster nutrition,” said the recipe handout. A key ingredient is kale, a leafy green that contributes vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, plus the minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Find the recipe below the video:

Monster Smoothie


  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 overripe banana, cliced
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds or walnuts (optional)


  1. Put the kale, banana, apple, blueberries, yogurt, orange juice and nuts in athe blender. Put the top on tightly.
  2. Turn the blender to medium and blend until the mixture is very smooth.
  3. Serve right away or store in a thermos or covered in the refrigerator up to 4 hours.
Posted on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 7:13 AM


93, WOW! Great story, Jeanette! I love that Alice can get those seasoned women up and moving. Kale at 90? Who knew? Awesome work UCCE- last report, recovery moms/this week seniors learn to PLAN, SHOP, SAVE, AND COOK!

Posted by Julie Cates on June 25, 2014 at 4:23 PM

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