When we think about February, Valentine’s Day often comes to mind. But February is also American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness and remind us all of the importance of heart health. Nearly one out of every three Moveable Feast clients has some form of heart disease, and our nutrition team is highly focused on keeping their hearts healthy.

“Our clients show a real picture of what heart disease looks like in the U.S., especially in the presence of food insecurity. Many are limited to processed, ready-to-eat foods, in addition to having so much increased stress and trauma… Almost all of my nutrition consults include a heart-healthy component, either as part of a current treatment or future prevention,” said Community Dietitian Isabel Betancourt.

The number of adults in the United States who have been diagnosed with heart disease is 30.3 million, which is about 12% of our population. In the past year, at least 30% of Moveable Feast clients have had a diagnosis of heart disease, which doesn’t include an even larger portion of clients with high blood pressure, a precursor to developing heart disease.

Our team of registered dietitians is tasked with identifying knowledge gaps, providing education, and working with clients to set specific, realistic goals that fill these gaps and improve overall health and well-being. We often see clients with heart disease who are experiencing common problems of fluid retention, high cholesterol, and weight management.

All Moveable Feast meals meet American Heart Association guidelines, which means they are limited in sodium and bad fats (saturated and trans) as well as provide a good source of nutrients (at least 10% or more of one’s daily value of Vitamin A, C, iron, calcium, protein, or dietary fiber).

While it’s important for clients to watch their sodium intake, it can often be difficult for them to adjust their palates to “less salt.” Our dietitians provide guidance to enhance the flavor of their foods without extra sodium and often suggest using acids such as lemon or vinegar or adding fresh herbs or spices.

Executive Chef Melanie Brown-Lane created a salt-free garlic paprika spice blend that is sent out to all new clients when they start service. “Clients absolutely rave about the spice blend, commenting that they often use it not only on their meals but also in their own cooking, such as on eggs and vegetables,” said Nutrition Manager Ilene Cervantes Del Toro.

Ilene says when she is counseling clients, she tries to keep things simple. When clients talk about the high sodium foods they tend to eat, she helps them think about the idea of having a “budget” for the day. For example, if they choose to eat a high sodium food at breakfast, then try other low sodium foods for the rest of the day. Ilene states that all counseling is individualized, “but the majority of clients usually need encouragement /suggestions to lower their sodium (and sugar) intake and increase their fruits/vegetables/whole grains.”

It is resources like Moveable Feast that have the ability to help change the statistics of heart disease, and we could not do it without such a dedicated team and the amazing support from our community.

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