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February 2011 | 0 Comments | Print
Director, Wellness Services

Eat your heart out with new restaurant partnership

No matter if you’re doing it for convenience, to socialize, or to satisfy a craving, dining out has never been more popular – or unhealthy if you don’t watch what you order. In fact, navigating the menu for heart healthy options at your favorite restaurant can be like navigating an artery-clogging minefield.

Fear not, Cincinnatians. The Christ Hospital has created a healthy solution for diners and independently-owned restaurants in Greater Cincinnati with its Heart-Healthy Restaurant Partnership Program.

“The program gives people tasteful meal options without high amounts of fat, sodium and cholesterol – the greatest dietary risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” says Cheri Miller, M.S., program coordinator with The Christ Hospital Cardiac Wellness Center.

How it works
To participate in the partnership, restaurants must submit selected recipes to The Christ Hospital for analysis using Nutribase software. These items are measured against guidelines set by the American Heart Association Step I Heart Healthy Diet. For the meal to be deemed heart healthy, it must meet the following criteria, based on a 2,000-calorie diet:

  • Less than 650 calories
  • Less than 20 grams of total fat
  • Less than 7 grams of saturated fat
  • Less than 800 mg of sodium
  • Less than 100 mg of cholesterol

If a recipe isn’t up to par, a registered nutritionist will work with the restaurant’s chef to improve its nutritional content without sacrificing taste. If you don’t think the terms “tasteful” and “healthy” fit together, sink your teeth into this: Entrees that meet the criteria include rolled chicken curry pita, filet mignon with spinach and even pesto primavera pizza.  

Deciphering the menu
If you dine at any of the 25+ local restaurants participating in the program, look for The Christ Hospital tower logo on the menu to determine which meals are deemed heart healthy. But how do you make good choices at any restaurant you frequent?

Here are some foolproof strategies you can use whenever and wherever you dine out:

  • Hold the salt, sauce and cheese. “The fear people have when they go on a heart healthy diet is that they’ll need to forego all good tasting food,” Miller says. “The truth is, there are other ways to make food flavorful without adding fat or sodium.” Substitute full-fat versions with low- or non-fat, or swap out fries for vegetables or coleslaw. Add flavor by requesting a dash of fresh herbs instead of a sprinkle of cheese. Control extra calories by ordering butter, dressing or sour cream on the side.
  • Speak up. Ask your server how a meal is prepared, the ingredients, or nutrition information if it's not clear from the description. Terms such as fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, buttered, creamed or stuffed typically indicate foods higher in fat. Request the entrée be prepared differently. "Fried foods can usually be replaced with baked, broiled, or grilled options," says Amy Higgins, R.D., a registered dietitian with The Christ Hospital Cardiac Wellness Center.
  • Avoid pre- and post-meal extras. It’s not just the entrèe you have to think about when dining out, Miller says. Appetizers, desserts and alcoholic beverages are typically laden with extra calories. Stick to one glass of red wine – not one bottle; instead of an appetizer, order a side salad; and when it’s time for dessert, order fresh fruit or sherbet rather than a slice of cheesecake.

The message to eat healthy even when dining out seems to be catching on in the community. “When I’m out visiting restaurants, I’m hearing that our community is embracing and asking for heart healthy options,” Miller says. “It’s encouraging to hear some of their top sellers are the healthier options.”  

Find out if your favorite restaurant participates in the program and view heart healthy menu items at or by calling 877-904-4YOU.

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