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Have you ever tasted pomegranate juice? That was the first item registered dietitian Andie Lugg offered those who attended a cooking demonstration last month at the Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center.
Lugg, who is the nutrition coordinator at the wellness center, chose the color red for February’s food theme based on heart health, and explained to the roomful of attendees that the red juice is packed with powerful antioxidants and vitamins.
The center offers cooking demonstrations each month. With February marking Valentine’s Day and being American Heart Month, Lugg chose to focus on heart-healthy recipes for her class.
As part of the Biggest Winner competition that wrapped up last week at the wellness center, Lugg helped the contestants make healthy lifestyle changes in diet and nutrition to supplement their daily workout routines. Incorporating healthy food choices is a key part of that.
Losing weight was only one component of the Biggest Winner competition, as it also encompassed fitness and overall health. Adopting a heart-healthy diet as a daily routine not only helped contestants in their weight-loss goals but also in improving their long-term health.
Amy Bioni of Houston competed in the Biggest Winner challenge for the third time and liked attending Lugg’s monthly cooking demos to pick up healthy advice and new recipes.
“I started at the wellness center about four years ago, and I was a diabetic and also on high blood pressure medication,” she said. “I am on nothing now, thanks to diet and exercise and support from the dietitians.”
Bioni has a family history of diabetes and was overweight. She lost 70 pounds over a course of about two years and continues her healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and by following nutritional advice she’s gotten from Lugg and the staff at the wellness center.
Now, she says, her healthy eating habits are starting to rub off on her family, with her son, Jules, giving up soda and her husband, Jay, making healthier food choices.
What does a heart-healthy diet look like? Plenty of fruits and vegetables, low sodium and lean protein are key components.
Lugg created recipes that added red beets and goat cheese to a salad (beets are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber) and red kidney beans (more fiber plus protein) to tuna salad to demonstrate the theme of “Color Your Plate Red” during the class.
Other heart-healthy cooking tips she offered include making healthier carbohydrate choices such as reducing sugar and using whole grains and flours when baking. Cutting back on saturated fat is also important for heart health, and Lugg suggested choosing lean cuts of meat and preparing them by baking, roasting or broiling along with eating fish regularly.
Audience members asked Lugg plenty of questions about how to lower the amount of salt and cholesterol in their diets, and Lugg said it’s easier to do so by cooking at home more than eating out at restaurants.
Her other tips? Don’t salt food at the table, and season foods with herbs, spices and lemon or lime juice. She also recommends skipping processed meats and instant foods, such as prepared mixes.
She suggested choosing oil-based salad dressings over creamy ones to help the body absorb nutrients from leafy salad greens and choosing goat cheese, feta and mozzarella as lower-sodium dairy choices.
Another helpful tip she gave the class was to try eating produce that’s in season. Lugg explained that you can often get a hint as to what produce is in season by looking at what items are most abundant and up front in the grocery store aisles.
Lugg offers cooking demonstrations each month with various themes. The classes are free for wellness center members with a $5 fee for nonmembers. For information on the cooking demonstrations, visitwww.wrcameronwellness.org.
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