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Vineyard restaurateurs teach students about nutrition

By Braley Dodson daily Herald - | Jan 14, 2020
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During a nutrition presentation by Aubergine Kitchen, students at Manila Elementary School are introduced to a variety of fruits and vegetables and what nutrition can do for the body on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Pleasant Grove. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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During the nutrition presentation, students are encouraged to taste the fruits and vegetables presented by Aubergine Kitchen on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, at Manila Elementary School in Pleasant Grove. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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Elcio Zanatta, 60, the founder of Aubergine Kitchen, a local restaurant that has been around for about six years, speaks to fifth-grade students at Manila Elementary in Pleasant Grove on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Zanatta began a program to teach children about the benefits of a healthy diet and travels to different elementary schools around the state. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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A student of Manila Elementary School samples a sweet potato for the first time on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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After tasting the fruits and vegetables presented to the students at Manila Elementary School, students are asked to write down their experience and how that particular food benefits the body on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Pleasant Grove. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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At the end of the nutrition presentations students at Manila Elementary School are given a fruit and vegetable smoothie along with recipe cards to make them at home on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Pleasant Grove. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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Following the presentation students ask questions to the Aubergine Kitchen staff at Manila Elementary in Pleasant Grove on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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Students at Manila Elementary School are given the opportunity to sample fruits and vegetables during the Aubergine Kitchen nutrition presentation on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Pleasant Grove. Some of the samples are new to many of the students. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

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Students at Manila Elementary School wait excitedly for the Aubergine Kitchen nutrition presentation to begin on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Pleasant Grove. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

The rainbow of fruits and vegetables underneath a tin foil cover initially received mixed reactions. The strawberries were good, the students unanimously agreed. But others, like the bell peppers, would need to first be put to the test.

Monday was the first time many students at Manila Elementary School in Pleasant Grove had sunk their teeth into different plant-based foods.

“The main takeaway is the more foods that are close to a plant, the better,” said Elcio Zanatta, who owns Aubergine Kitchen with his wife, Mirian.

The Zanattas have traveled to a handful of Utah County schools over the last few months to teach students about plant-based foods, introduce them to fruits and vegetables and explain the importance of eating healthy, non-processed foods.

Third and fifth graders sat in Manila Elementary School’s cafeteria as they filled out diagrams showing different parts of a plant, drank a smoothie and then learned about the benefits of specific fruits and vegetables. The students tasted foods like cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes in order to give their review.

The cafeteria was split between students who were eager to reach in and try new things, and those who needed a little bit of coaxing from their classmates.

Principal Paul Finlayson said that encouragement was a way that peer pressure could be put to a positive use. He said the school offers fruits and vegetables to students at lunch, and that staff encourage students to grab a plant-based food before sitting down to eat.

“Our district has pushed for better nutrition,” he said.

Elcio and Mirian Zanatta opened Aubergine Kitchen in Orem six years ago after moving to Vineyard from Brazil. The business has since expanded to Lehi and Sugar House in Salt Lake City.

Elcio Zanatta said the nutrition presentations are a way for them to give back to the communities that have embraced them.

The couple became passionate about clean, healthy eating after Elcio Zanatta got sick 13 years ago. After getting colds, headaches and experiencing a loss of energy, he attended a seminar on healthy eating.

“We have seen the consequence of disease,” Mirian Zanatta said.

After switching to eating more fruits and vegetables, Elicio Zanatta said he felt his energy levels rise.

Elcio Zanatta explained the importance of nutrition to the students by using the analogy of caring for a goose in order to get an egg.

“The egg is important, but to take care of the goose is crucial,” he told the students.

He encouraged the students to take care of their bodies and teach their families to do it, too.

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