Gina Neely Takes the Heart Healthy Pledge, Meets with Student Chefs in Birmingham.

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By Ariel Worthy

Celebrity cook Gina Neely experienced her first Magic City Classic weekend this year.

Neely, who does not like to be called a chef, rather a cook, hung out with Tom Joyner and met with fans at Alabama Power Appliance’s Cooking Demonstration with Chef Tim Hughes.

Neely is on a campaign with Seafood Nutrition Partnership to talk about the importance of incorporating seafood into a person’s diet.

“You should eat seafood at least twice a week,” Neely said. “Seafood is lighter, it gives you more energy; it really is a filling protein.”

Hughes, who is the Chef de Cuisine at Snapper Grabber Seafood Market in Vestavia, made the audience fish tacos using Red Snapper fish.

“It’s a meaty fish,” Neely said. “It’s good, filling fish.”

Neely spoke about how seafood can impact the health of a person.

“You can actually see what it does for you,” Neely said. “And we’re not asking for much, just twice a week.”

According to Seafood Nutrition Partnership, eating seafood at least two times a week can lower the risk of heart disease, improve baby brain wellness and increase memory for seniors.

Going into the afternoon, Neely got to meet three high school girls who won a cooking competition at their high schools in Birmingham.

China Lawrence of Wenonah High School won the competition cooking a salmon chowder.

“It’s starting to get cold, and people like to eat warm foods,” Lawrence said. “Also, I went to Red Lobster that week and I love their chowder.” she laughed.

Lawrence, who along with the other winners, got to enjoy lunch at Vino in Mountain Brook, prepared by Hughes and with the company of Neely.

Brittnay Molton of Jackson-Olin High school created Alaskan Salmon Frittatas.

“I wanted to make a breakfast recipe,” Molton said.

Chasity Melton of Huffman High School created salmon tacos.

As the afternoon continued, the ladies got cooking tips from Hughes and Neely, such as why cooking with olive oil is not always a good idea.

“Using olive oil to cook with high level temperatures can cause a huge flame,” Hughes explained. “It’s best to use grapeseed oil or coconut oil when cooking with high temperatures.”

While it was easy to explain to these young women why seafood and healthy eating is important, a couple of them agreed that it might be hard to convince their generation of it.

“There are McDonald’s and Burger Kings everywhere,” Lawrence said. “You would have to make it taste better and make it to where they would like it more, kind of how [Hughes] did for us.”

The Seafood Nutrition Program has made their way through various cities through the country, and encourage people to take the Heart Healthy Pledge. According to their website, the Heart Healthy Pledge is:

I recognize seafood is a healthy choice for me and my family and one of the leanest proteins with a variety of nutrients.
The Seafood Nutrition Partnership aims to reduce the risks of heart disease, improve baby brain wellness and increase memory for seniors by educating Americans about the health benefits of seafood and building awareness of seafood’s essential nutritional value.
By pledging to eat at least two servings of seafood each week as recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines, I know I will help me and my family reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease.”

To learn more about the pledge, and healthy seafood eating tips, visit seafoodnutrition.org.