Who We Love: Jenn LaVardera

June 02, 2016

Our summer issue is full of salad recipes packed with fruits and vegetables. We love Dole’s fresh fruits and fresh vegetables, so we’re excited to help spread the word about their Tour de Fresh Cycling Event.  Our summer issue features biking as a way to stay fit, AND ChopChop was established in Watertown, where the proceeds from part of Tour de Fresh’s fundraising for salad bars will go. Jenn LaVardera, who works for Dole, took a break from biking to sit down with ChopChop to fill us in on how biking 200 miles from Napa Valley to Monterey, California will help “Move Salad Bars to Schools” in Watertown, Massachusetts.

ChopChop: I've heard of Tour de France, but not Tour de Fresh. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is?

Jenn:  Tour de Fresh is a three-day bike ride for people who work at fruit and vegetable companies. Each rider is raising money to bring a salad bar to one school district, as part of the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign. Each dollar that we raise will help bring salad bars to schools all across the country.

 

ChopChop: How did you get involved with Tour de Fresh?

Jenn: I am the Registered Dietitian for Dole Food Company and work under the Dole Nutrition Institute, so I know how important eating fruits and vegetables is to a healthy life. When Dole got involved with Tour de Fresh, I said “of course!” I will support this wonderful cause.

ChopChop: 200 miles is really far! Have you ever biked this far before? 

Jenn: No! This is definitely the longest ride I’ve done since I am new to cycling, but I am used to endurance events. I was a swimmer when I was a kid and now I run a lot. I ran a marathon a few years ago—26.2 miles is really hard on your feet! This ride is broken up over three days and it’s not a race, so I think I’ll have a lot of fun.

 

ChopChop: When did you start biking?

Jenn: I have been riding bikes for fun since I was a kid, but I just learned how to ride a road bike a few months ago so I can participate in Tour de Fresh. It’s a lot different from riding a beach cruiser or mountain bike!

 

ChopChop: Do you remember getting your training wheels off? What was it like?

Jenn: I don’t remember that day, but just this weekend I changed the pedals on my new road bike to the kind of pedals you clip your special bike shoes into. It’s like learning to ride a bike all over again! I practiced in a parking lot and I did fall over a few times.

 

ChopChop: What happens if you get a flat tire?

Jenn: Most cyclists carry around an emergency kit on their bikes so they can change a flat tire if it happens during a ride. I have a little bag with all the gear right under my seat.

 

ChopChop: How did you learn to fix a bike?

Jenn: I learned the hard way by getting a flat tire! Luckily some nice bikers were there to help me out. After that I practiced changing a tire with someone who works at a bike shop. I still prefer to leave the bike maintenance to the professionals so I know I am safe.

 

ChopChop: What advice do you have for anyone learning to ride a bike?

Jenn: Take it slow and steady, and always wear a helmet. Be persistent. It can be hard and kind of scary at first but it gets easier each time you get on the bike.

ChopChop: Our summer issue is all about salad. Do you cook salad at home? What is your favorite kind to make and eat?

Jenn: I love making big salads for lunch and I specialize in “everything but the kitchen sink” salads. My favorite salads start with spinach or spring mix and then I add lots of good stuff: fresh veggies like tomatoes and cucumber, leftover quinoa or chicken for some protein, and avocado for some healthy fats. I really like roasted vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts so I usually make a lot for dinner and have leftovers to put in salads. I like to have a side of carrots and hummus with my salads too.

 

ChopChop: Why is it important for kids to have salad bars in school?

Jenn: Fruits and vegetables are the healthiest foods on the planet. They have so many nutrients that keep your body healthy and strong. Kids spend a lot of time at school, so it’s important that they have nutritious food available for lunch every single day. A salad bar is a fun way to bring fresh produce to the cafeteria. Who doesn’t love building their own creation? With a salad bar you can pick out all your favorite fruits and vegetables and make your own healthy lunch.

 

ChopChop: Did you like to eat salad as a kid?

Jenn: I’ve always liked vegetables and fruit and ate salad at home with my parents, but I know I didn’t always choose the healthiest foods for lunch when I was on my own at school. We didn’t have a salad bar in our cafeteria, but we did have a lot of treats like cookies and ice cream. I think a salad bar would have made healthy eating more fun and made the unhealthy foods look a lot less appealing.

 

ChopChop: I'm from Watertown and am so excited about the salad bar. If you could put any ingredient in our school salad bar, what would you add?

Jenn: Just one? This is hard. I’ll say cauliflower, because cauliflower is having a big year. People used to think it was just boring and white, but it’s actually packed with nutrients like vitamin C and there is so much you can do with it in the kitchen. I’m so happy that people are starting to appreciate how awesome cauliflower is.

ChopChop: What would you say to a kid who says, "I don't like salad?"

Jenn: Well what kind of salad are you talking about? You may not like a plain green salad, but there’s so much more you can do! Tell me what foods you like, and I will make you a salad you will love.

 

ChopChop: Is salad a good food for training for biking?

Jenn: Fruits and vegetables are packed with special compounds called polyphenols that are only found in plants. New research is finding these compounds are super good for you and can help your muscles recover after hard exercise. But the best food for biking is bananas. Research we have done Dole has found they provide the best source of energy your body needs during long rides and can also help your muscles recover when you’re done riding.

To learn more about Tour de Fresh and donate to the cause visit http://www.tourdefresh.com/about.php.