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American Heart Month Highlights Child Nutrition’s Year Round Focus on Cardiovascular Health

American Heart Month Highlights Child Nutrition’s Year Round Focus on Cardiovascular Health

From heart-shaped cards to heart healthy lunches–there’s a lot of sweet things about February. American Heart Month focuses on cardiovascular health, including how to reduce risks of heart disease through exercise and nutrition.

Child Nutrition Services (CNS) has student heart health in mind year round as CNS staff members have worked toward reducing sodium and saturated fats, said Anna Lague, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Redwood City School District (RCSD).

“It’s been a process for several years to reduce sodium,” she said. “The menus are heart healthy.”

Some of the CNS practices to reduce sodium include reducing processed foods that may be high in sodium as well as using low sodium ingredients such as low sodium canned vegetables and low sodium soy sauce and teriyaki sauce.

Also, “we watch closely the amount of salt we add to recipes,” added Lague.

Trimming saturated fat is achieved in several ways, Lague explained. Only lean meats are served and no foods are fried. Cooking oil is used sparingly, but when used, it’s olive/canola blend or sesame oil. Low-fat cheeses are the only ones used in RCSD kitchens. 

It’s not just what is removed from the meals that promotes cardiovascular health, according to Lague, it’s also meaningful additions to the menu.

“Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables supports heart health,” she said. This is one reason RCSD believes that students should be able to select from a variety of fruits and vegetables. “After all, it is only healthy if the students eat it.”

“Oatmeal on the breakfast menu is proven to be heart healthy. We are also introducing more plant-based meals such as nachos and hummus that the students have really enjoyed.”

A tray with oatmeal ready to be placed on the cafeteria serving line

Heart healthy warm oatmeal with blueberries is new on the breakfast menu

Students can look forward to two upcoming menu items: Asian Chicken Salad with sesame dressing and Chana Masala, garbanzo beans with spice.

A tray of asian chicken salad servings ready to be served

Asian Chicken Salad with sesame dressing will soon be on the menu