Chicken sizzles on the stove. The chef makes a poppy seed dressing for the strawberry-mandarin salad, while onlookers carefully write notes about the recipe.
“It’s nice to know that you could eat food that tastes like this and still be healthy,” said Rhoda Rubin, one of the class participants.
People here are learning how to make heart healthy meals at Hackensack Meridian Health’s cooking demonstration.
“As I’m getting older, I have to stay healthy if I want to live longer, so here I am,” said Priscilla, another participant.
“From my standpoint, good nutrition and good cardiovascular health is the cornerstone to cardiovascular disease, both prevention and wellness. It is pivotal, and we do a very poor job in the United States and worldwide in trying to make a dent in that,” said Dr. Brett Sealove, cardiologist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
The American Heart Association indicates only about 1.5 percent of U.S. adults meet their recommendations for an ideal healthy diet. Cardiovascular disease accounts for about 1 of every 3 deaths in the country.
“There’s an irrefutable amount of data that a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet are the things that are going to move you from one decade to the next, for sure,” said Sealove. “We know that if you don’t eat a proper diet, we absolutely know that it can accelerate heart disease for sure, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity. This is an epidemic.”
Sealove says eating unhealthy food can raise your blood pressure, increase your cholesterol and accelerate the hardening of the arteries.
“Eighty percent of heart disease, if you do the right things with diet and fitness, is preventable,” he said.
That is exactly what class participant Claire Harkins is trying to do, prevent any heart conditions. She has a family history.
“I just feel like I just retired, and now I’m just going to focus on trying to live longer than anybody in my family did,” said Harkins.
Hackensack Meridian Health offers cooking these demonstrations at 10 different locations throughout the state each month. The classes are free and participants get a chance to taste the food, and leave with all the recipes, too.
Registered dietitian at Bayshore Community Hospital Annie Zappulla says creating a nutritious healthy meal doesn’t have to be complicated or bland. The fruits’ natural sugar, herbs and spices add the flavor without the salt.
“It’s really short term, feeling good on a daily basis, long term preventing chronic diseases and improving your health overall,” said Zappulla.
All while still enjoying a good meal.