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February 15, 2011 > Eat to Your Heart's Content - and Health!

Eat to Your Heart's Content - and Health!

Washington Hospital Dietitians Partner with Local Restaurant

In observance of American Heart Month during February, Washington Hospital's Food & Nutrition Services are cooking up something special.

"We always emphasize providing healthy meals for our patients and people who dine in the hospital cafeteria," says Kimberlee Alvari, R.D., Food & Nutrition Services Clinical Nutrition Manager. "During February, though, we are offering 'Sweetheart Specials' every Tuesday, featuring new menu items that meet heart-healthy criteria.

"We also are providing information and recipes so people can learn to prepare heart-healthy meals at home," she adds. "We've done this sort of thing in the past and gotten a very positive response, but this year we wanted to extend our efforts further into the community."

In this case, reaching into the community involved having the hospital's registered dietitians work with the chefs at Strizzi's Restaurant, a local Italian eatery located near the hospital.

"It's no secret that it's much harder to eat a healthy meal when you're dining out," Alvari notes. "We've all grown accustomed to enjoying fancy restaurant meals that often include fatty cuts of meat and sauces that are loaded with saturated fats and sodium. We wanted to get the message out that you can have a heart-healthy restaurant meal that tastes good!"

The dietitians began by reviewing the menu at Strizzi's to find choices that would require only a few alterations in ingredients and food preparation techniques.

"We settled on two main courses - wood-grilled salmon and grilled chicken breast with a roasted mango salsa," Alvari says. "Both of them are lower in saturated fat than red meat. The fish is an especially good choice because the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week for the benefits derived from the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, and most people don't get enough Omega-3s in their diet."

Once the main course "specials" were chosen, the dietitians worked with the restaurant staff on portion sizes and replacing high-calorie, high-fat side dishes with healthier options.

"For their heart-healthy meals, they are offering delicious side dishes of pasta with a meatless tomato-based marinara sauce and steamed fresh vegetables instead of fried foods, butter-laden mashed potatoes, heavy cream sauces and vegetables that are swimming in garlic butter," Alvari explains.

Strizzi's will be featuring the heart-healthy meals throughout February on a special menu that specifies the dishes are "approved by Washington Hospital Registered Dietitians for meeting heart-healthy criteria."

"This is our first attempt to work with local restaurants in offering more heart-healthy menu options for their customers," Alvari says. "We are hoping that other restaurants in the Fremont, Newark and Union City area will join us in this effort to prevent heart disease."

Local restaurant owners who are interested in working with Washington Hospital dietitians to develop heart-healthy menus for next year's American Heart Month observance can call the Food & Nutrition Services department at (510) 745-6540.

Washington Women's Center Offers Low Fat Cooking Class Demonstration
Anna Mazzei, a Washington Hospital registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, will be whipping up a Low Fat Cooking Demonstration during an upcoming Lunch and Learn seminar sponsored by the Women's Center. The demo will take place on Wednesday, February 16 from Noon to 1 p.m. at the Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium. Come watch, smell and taste samples of low fat dishes. The fee is $5 to attend. For more information or to register, call (800) 963-7070.

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