George Pebworth, BISD Area Food Service Supervisor, didn’t begin his career thinking about nutrition and health, but now it is his world. He actually started out more focused on bugs—insects to be specific—completing a college degree in Entomology (the study of insects) and Dairy Science (cattle) almost fifty years ago.
“My first job was working for a company that exported cattle and dairy equipment. Because I spoke Spanish, I was given more responsibility than I probably deserved, and I traveled all over Mexico and Central America. As I learned about caring for cattle, I became more and more involved in aspects of their nutrition. There are actually a lot of similarities between nourishing a cow and a person. At the celluar level a carb is a carb, as is the way our bodies use food.”
Mr. Pebworth went on to have jobs in the meat and seafood industries becoming more and more involved with nutrition and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for products.
“Then mid-career I had an opportunity to study under a famous chef in Sweden. That was a life-changing experience as I learned to prepare, cook and savor delicious, healthy food.”
That led George to another position managing a company that prepared recipes for food producers, and ultimately to manage food processing plants along the border in Mexico.
“When it was time to retire I was quickly bored and so I landed a job as a cafeteria manager in an elementary school here in Brownsville. It was so fun to come to work—just like having 800 grandkids.”
Ultimately George’s expertise was needed at the main office and he has become more recently involved in administration, overseeing food safety and training for the district.
But he is well aware of the obesity epidemic that is sweeping our community and nation and often volunteers his time giving talks and sharing his knowledge and experience with parents and school staff.
In addition to the obvious causes of overweight and obesity, George is convinced the chemical additives in much of the processed food we consume contribute to obesity and other health problems.
“When I attended my 50th high school reunion a few years ago, we all talked about why we think folks are gaining so much weight these days compared to when we were young. In addition to not exercising enough and consuming larger portions, we aren’t eating the same “real food” we used to. My mom may have cooked with lard, and we probably didn’t eat enough fresh vegetables, but we knew what ingredients were in the meal we consumed and there weren’t a lot of chemicals and additives with names we couldn’t even pronounce. This can’t be good for us.”
But there are ways to make simple, healthy changes:
George’s advise after years of working in the field of nutrition:
1. Eat real food. The more ingredients on a label, probably the less healthy it is. Did you notice that fresh fruits and veggies don’t even have labels? They are what they are –rich in vitamins, nutrient dense and low in calories.
2. Pay attention when you eat. Don’t watch TV or even read. Focus on the food you are eating. Savor it—Enjoy it! That way you will be aware when you are full, and not just keep munching mindlessly.
3. Learn to cook and cook at home! You don’t have to be a chef. I recommend making soup. Soup is easy, nutritious and filling in a good way. Furthermore, kids in this area are used to eating sopas, or sopitas, and it is a good place to hide some new veggies you would like them to try.
4. The liquid (water) in the soup fills you up. If you want a Mexican twist, add cumino; an Italian-twist add oregano; or for an oriental flavor add some ginger. Use left-over meat or chicken and add lots of vegetables, water and limited salt.
5. Use smaller plates. We are programmed by our mothers to finish our plates. Also, plate your food in the kitchen and don’t get up for seconds.
6. If you slip up and have an oversized piece of chocolate cake don’t beat yourself up—you don’t have to feel guilty—it doesn’t reflect your morals. It just means you shouldn’t eat as much over the next few days or that you need to balance with more exercise.
7. Go walking. In addition to burning calories, it is the greatest stress reliever.
George Pebworth has a lifetime of experience and his own health to show that his advice works. So keep it simple and real, because Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!)