February is American Heart Month, and to celebrate, many operations are providing heart-heathy meals as well as educating diners about how to encourage heart health all the time. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, are the leading cause of death globally, with more than 17.9 million deaths each year. Click through to see how three operators are combating that statistic in their hospitals, communities and beyond.
Carthage Area Hospital
Carthage Area Hospital in upstate rural Carthage, N.Y., is offering three health-focused classes that teach students how to prepare low-calorie meals that are affordable, nutritious and accessible. Susie Kim, the hospital's clinical dietitian, leads the free children's cooking classes as well as adult cooking classes. "For the most part, people seem to like them because there isn't anything like that here," she says. "Being able to offer really interactive cooking lessons for kids and adults has been great."
Kim and her colleagues at the hospital also have started a meal kit program called GoFresh to further encourage healthy eating in their community. Next month, for National Nutrition Month, clinical dietitians at Carthage Area Hospital are hosting a smoothie competition, during which they will each create their own healthy smoothie recipe. Recipes will be voted on by staff and patients.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
At Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center, every month is heart month. "We follow the NYC Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, which has a number of goals and standards to adhere to," says Timothy Gee, executive chef at MSK. "Our overall strategy focuses on serving not only better meats such as antibiotic- and hormone-free poultry and grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef, but also less meats, such as in our countless vegetarian dishes. My focus is to not just serve vegetarian dishes so we can say we do, but to make these dishes as good if not better than the other entrees."
Gee favors one key ingredient for heart health: flavor. "Just because you're serving superfoods or plant-forward foods does not mean you can step away from making these dishes flavorful. Focus on fresh herbs, salsas, vinegars and spices to kick the dishes up a notch."
A dish Gee says helps MSK diners start their days off right and avoid items higher in sodium is overnight oats (above).
West Virginia University School of Medicine Eastern Division at the Berkeley Medical Center campus in Martinsburg, W.Va., developed a program called the Medical Curriculum in Health Exercise and Food Sciences (MedCHEFS) to put a spotlight on nutrition and facilitate interactions between doctors and patients. The program was initially designed to teach medical students to tackle the issues of obesity, diabetes and heart disease one on one with their patients. Because these issues are prevelant in West Virginia, WVU Medicine opened the program up to the larger community for American Heart Month. Rosemarie Cannarella Lorenzetti, a doctor and member of the core team that designed the program, and Scott Anderson, chef and owner of a natural foods store in Shepherdstown, W.Va., did a cooking demo that modified favorite recipes to be more heart healthy.
"There are easy substitutions that you can do to make your favorite dishes healthier without sacrificing flavor," Lorenzetti says. "We encourage anyone who wants to learn how to cook healthier to join us."
Photo by Matt Welch