File photo

File photo

While the rest of America may just be getting hip to healthy eating, Santa Monicans have been doing it for years.

But it can still be challenging navigating the latest fads and studies on the benefits of sticking to a strict plant-based diet. Where do you get your protein? How do you prepare vegan meals that are flavorful as well as healthy? Which vegetables pack the most punch?

Santa Monica-based natural foods chef Christine Oppenheim answers those questions and more with her new five-week course “Intro to Healthy Eating” at Santa Monica College Community Education, beginning Saturday, March 1.

The class focuses on healthy eating fundamentals through a whole-food, plant-based diet. A plant-based diet can help improve health and digestion, increase energy, encourage better sleep, reduce cravings, help with weight loss, and extend life expectancy, she said.

Course topics include: eating with the season; meeting protein needs with plant-based sources; making healthy choices when cooking and dining out; using healthy fats, superfoods, and probiotics; understanding gluten sensitivity and alternatives to common food allergies.

Oppenheim also teaches how to shop for the best food with the class culminating in a visit to a local natural foods store to see the foods that have been discussed.

Classes are Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 1 — March 29.

To register, call Santa Monica College at (310) 434-3400, or go online at commed.smc.edu.

Oppenheim is certified as a natural chef from Bauman College. She also trained as a holistic wellness coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. For more information, visit www.veggiefixation.com