You are what you eat

Kenwood resident develops online meal planning tool to help people improve their diets

Jennette Turner is a strong believer that food should be grown, not invented.

If what’s on your plate was made in a food processing plant rather than your kitchen, she says you shouldn’t eat it.

Considering the vast amount of refined and industrially processed food surrounding us, Turner’s strict adherence to natural foods might seem difficult to mirror. But the Kenwood resident is helping people all over the country change the way they eat with her new online meal-planning service called "Dinner With Jennette" at www.jennette-turner.com.

Turner, a nutrition expert and natural foods consultant, provides customers with plans for 12 complete meals each month, all of which are suitable for gluten-free diets and can be prepared in less than one hour. The plans guide customers on what to buy, how to prepare it and why it’s good for them. The idea of the program is to get people eating "straight-up good food," Turner said. Each meal is nutritionally balanced and the menu includes ample variety, from chicken curry to a Mexican potato soup.

"The quality of our food affects the quality of our whole lives," Turner said, noting that her goal is to make people see that quality food doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming to make. "People feel intimidated; they think it’s going to take forever."

Turner’s online meal-planning service was fueled in part by complaints she heard from clients and friends who felt they didn’t have time to cook or never knew what to make. The service, which was launched in June, now has subscribers from both coasts of the Unites States and a half-dozen other states around the country, as well as a large constituency in Minnesota. Customers include everyone from families to people cooking for one.

Kris Collins, a 33-year-old information systems manager, started consulting Turner about five months ago to find a solution for persistent digestive problems.

"People in my family have similar issues; I thought I was just stuck with it," Collins said.

Collins said she came into her consultations with Turner completely disillusioned, her skepticism stemming from seeing numerous specialists and trying lots of different diets that did not cure her digestive problems. Changing her diet has allowed her to quit taking supplements for her digestion, and she feels better.

Collins is now a subscriber to the "Dinner with Jennette" program. She said the recipes the service provides aren’t difficult, and she even prefers eating in to going out these days.

"It’s just better food," Collins said.

That doesn’t surprise Turner, but it motivates her to continue her work with natural foods.

"It always makes me proud when clients tell me they have started craving vegetables," Turner said. "The body recognizes you are doing something good, starts to want those foods and stops wanting junk food."

Turner, who, like many people, was raised eating regular helpings of processed foods like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, developed an interest in natural foods and healthy eating while living in a cooperative student house at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

After college, she trained for three years at a holistic nutrition program in New York before returning to Minnesota to start her practice. Now 37, she teaches classes at The Wedge Natural Foods Co-op in addition to getting her online meal-planning service off the ground. The topics for her classes at The Wedge range from kids’ nutrition to "Healthy Eating in Today’s Fast and Crazy World."

"One thing that I think we need to pay more attention to is the connection between the food we eat and our bodies," Turner said. "The simple truth is that our brains are kept in repair and fueled by the food we eat."

And it’s not just our brains that benefit from good nutrition. Turner said when people are well nourished, they become more energetic, can resist disease more easily and feel better overall.

"I think we’re kind of at a place where people are realizing health is such an issue," Turner said.

Turner admits that living in Southwest, in the duplex she grew up in, makes eating natural foods easier than it would be in some other areas.

"I feel lucky to be in a neighborhood of restaurants where you can get natural foods," Turner said.