Sodium reduction made simple with basic meal-time changes

From processed meats in your local deli to cheeseburgers from popular fast food restaurant chains, the diets of American households are loaded with sodium. In fact, the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day, which is significantly higher than the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 1,500 mg per day.

Why all the fuss about sodium?

Diets high in sodium are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in all Americans, and stroke is the 5th salt-91539_960_720leading cause of death and a top cause of long-term disability.

The American Heart Association estimates that if the U.S. population reduced its sodium intake to the recommended 1,500 mg per day, there would be a savings of more than $236 billion in healthcare spending and a 25.6 percent decrease in the prevalence of high blood pressure. That would be a huge impact on our local community, where one in three residents suffer from high blood pressure.

Sodium reduction is easier than many may think. To help get you on the track to a heart-healthy diet with the correct amount of sodium, follow these few, simple tips when preparing meals and making decisions in the grocery store.

Avoid over-processed deli meats.


It may be easier to pick up the prepackaged turkey from the meat department at your local grocery store, but many processed meats contain exorbitant amounts of sodium due to the salt added to maintain its freshness.

For a healthier alternative, look to your fresh-cut deli meats. Local grocery stores offer a variety of options, including deli meats that have been certified heart-healthy by the American Heart Association. Just look for the heart healthy check mark on the packaging.


Read the nutrition labels.

There is nothing more important when making a healthy decisions than reading the nutrition label. Sodium can go by many names when listed on a label, so look for salt, sodium benzoate, disodium or monosodium glutamate when factoring how much salt is in a product.

Common foods loaded with sodium include canned goods like beans and tomatoes, prepared salad dressing, condiments and even some soups. When shopping, look for products that are listed as low-sodium or reduced sodium.

The closer to nature, the healthier the product.

While it may be easier to pick up canned vegetables, many of these items are canned in a sodium solution to retain flavor and extend the product’s shelf life. The best way to prevent needless sodium in your diet is to prepare fresh vegetables instead of canned. An easy alternative to fresh vegetables would be frozen vegetables, which have no sodium. If the only option is canned, drain the sodium solution and rinse with water before preparing the vegetables in water. Doing this can reduce the amount of sodium in the product by 40 percent.

Try low or no sodium spices to add flavor to your meals.

There are plenty of alternatives to salt that can help add great flavor to your meals. Basil, curry powder, onion powder, paprika and parsley are great additions to fish and lean meats. Chives, garlic and dill also add flavor to soups, vegetables and other side dishes.

For a sweeter seasoning, try adding cinnamon to fruits, breads and pie crusts. Ginger, nutmeg and peppermint extract also go well with fruit.

 Keeping up with small changes in your sodium intake will lead to a significant reduction in sodium consumption over time. For more information about the American Heart Association’s sodium recommendations, visit

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GUEST BLOG: Wonderful Watermelon – Summer’s Favorite Food


By Angela Stancil, MS, RD, LDN

Summer is a time for enjoying the great outdoors, finding new adventures, and enjoying light and refreshing summer foods. When temperatures rise, what’s better than a cool and refreshing treat? Composed of more than 90 percent water, watermelon is the perfect fruit for keeping cool and staying hydrated.

Celebrate Watermelon Day on August 3rd and impress your friends with these fun facts about a favorite summer treat.Summer is a time for enjoying the great outdoors, finding new adventures, and enjoying light and refreshing summer foods.fruit-2367029_1920

  • Watermelon belongs to the botanical family Curcurbitaceae and is the most consumed melon in the United States.
  • The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
  • Watermelons grow in more than 96 countries around the world.
  • China is the number one producer of watermelon worldwide.
  • 44 states in the United States produce watermelon each year.
  • Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, a naturally occurring compound that is thought to decrease risk of developing heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
  • Watermelon is also a great source of fiber, potassium and vitamins B6, A and C.
  • Watermelon is a low calorie food.
  • A two cup serving of watermelon is only about 80 calories!
  • Every part of the watermelon – including the rind and seeds – is edible.
  • Watermelon typically weight between 5 and 50 pounds. The Guinness World Record holder for heaviest watermelon is Chris Kent of Seiverville, Tenn., with a watermelon weighing 350.5 lbs!

Ready to indulge? Here’s how:

  1. Look for a firm, symmetrical melon free of cuts, dents and bruises.
  2. Lift it – it should be heavy for its size.
  3. Check for a rich yellow spot on the underside. This is where the melon sat and ripened.
  4. Bacteria can be transferred from the outside of a melon to the inside once it’s cut. Avoid spreading bacteria by washing your hands and the surface of the melon before cracking it open.

This summer, try a new way to prepare and serve this delicious fruit. Check our the American Heart Association’s recipe library for several watermelon-friendly recipes here.


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Stay cool this summer with refreshing sugary beverage alternatives


Yes, we know that is the understatement of the year. The past few days in the Mid-South, we’ve seen scorching temperatures and heat advisories, and the summer is not over yet.

To help you beat the heat, we’ve compiled just a few of our favorite recipes for refreshing, cold drinks that are guaranteed to keep you cool and happy as the temperatures rise. If you have a favorite low-sugar, ice-cold drink recipe, share it in the comments!

Raspberry-Lemonade Slushie

Raspberry-Lemonade-Slushie Drink

Chill out when the weather’s warm and treat yourself to this frozen drink that’s a blend of seasonal fresh raspberries and fresh lemon juice.


  • 12 oz raspberries
  • 1 cup sugar substitute
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 5 cups ice cubes


  • In a food processor or blender, process the raspberries, sugar substitute, and lemon juice until the raspberries are puréed.
  • Add the ice cubes. Process until the mixture is mostly smooth and has a slushie-like consistency. (It’s okay if there are a few ice chunks. Don’t overmix.)
  • Divide the slushie into cups. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information

Strawberry-Lemonade Italian Ice

Strawberry Lemonade Italian Ice

This fruit-centric, healthy dessert is a great frozen treat that can be made without the use of an ice cream machine.


  • 1 1/2 lb ripe strawberries (stemmed, halved)
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 5 cups ice


  • Trim and remove the stem from each strawberry; cut each one in half. Add strawberries into the bowl of a food processor or a powerful blender.
  • In a small bowl, add lemon juice and sugar. Mix together until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add into the food processor or blender; blend until strawberries are pureed.
  • Add in all the ice; puree until mixture is entirely smooth and all the ice has been blended.
  • Pour into a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish and freeze for 30 minutes. Use a spoon to scrape along the edge of the dish, pushing those outer frozen chunks into the middle of the dish. Use back of the spoon to spread Italian ice into an even layer.
  • Freeze another 30 minutes and repeat process. Lastly, freeze for 1 more hour.
    Remove from freezer and use a spoon to scoop Italian ice into cups to serve.

Nutrition Information

Summer Limeade

summer limeade

Making a batch of this American frozen drink recipe for a party? For a touch of easy fanciness, add berries or even edible flowers into an ice tray. Top with water and freeze for beautiful ice cubes to use for the limeade. Also note that the lime zest increases the lime flavor; letting it sit for a day before serving pumps up the citrus-ness.


  • ice, as needed
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 4 lime wheels, to garnish (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest (zest from about 2 limes)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar substitute
  • 5 cups cold water


  • Wash 3 limes. Using a microplane or zester, zest each lime. Add zest into a large pitcher.
  • Cut each lime in half. Use a juicer or citrus reamer to juice each lime until you have 1/3 cup lime juice. Add into the pitcher, along with sugar substitute and water. Stir together to combine.
  • If desired, make 4 lime wheels by cutting and discarding the ends off the lime. Slice the lime into 4 wheels and add each one into a glass. Add ice into each glass and fill with 8 ounces limeade.
  • Stir limeade before serving because the zest settles into the bottom of the pitcher. Pour into glasses and serve.

Nutrition Information

Find more heart-healthy recipes online at

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GUEST BLOG: Secret Ways Food Color Affects Your Health

angela stancil

Angela Stancil Registered Dietitian

One of the best things you can do for your body is to make healthier food choices. Research has shown that filling up on fruits and vegetables can reduce risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, obesity and even some forms of cancer. At the same time, choosing whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins helps your body get vital nutrients such as calcium, fiber, and vitamins it needs to stay or become strong and healthy. But did you know the color of food makes a difference?

You’ve probably heard that choosing different colored foods at each meal promotes variety. This is important not only because certain foods are better sources of a particular nutrient than others, but also because foods work together to deliver nutrients they can’t provide alone. For example, foods rich in vitamin C such as tomatoes, bell peppers or oranges help with absorption of iron, which is found in whole grains and leafy greens.

Meals containing mostly hues of white, tan or brown tend to include more starches and fried foods and not as many vegetables or fruits. They are also more likely to be higher in added sugars, sodium and calories. Having a variety of colors on your plate suggests more food groups are represented and in turn that the meal is better balanced. Read on to learn more about the colors to include at every meal and how each color could impact your health.

Red, Orange, Blue and Violet: These colors are produced by molecules called anthocyanins and anthocyanidids and are commonly found in berries, eggplant, red and purple grapes, red cabbage, red wine and sweet cherries. Anthocyanins belong t


Colorful fruits and vegetables not only improve the appearance of your plate, but they can help improve your overall health, as well.

o a class of substances called flavonoids that are thought to help enhance memory and prevent age-related decline in mental function. Research has also suggested that foods rich in these pigments may be associated with lower risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease.



Bright Yellow, Red, Green and Orange: Pigments called carotenoids give foods bright red, yellow, orange and green coloring. Some carotenoids are converted to retinol (vitamin A) which has important roles in proper immune function, growth and development and maintaining eye health. Carotenoids also function as an antioxidant in the body, protecting cells from damage. Sources of dietary carotenoids include cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, kale and squash.

Green: The green coloring of plants is produced by chlorophyll. This pigment is very common in cruciferous vegetables and is found in plants such as broccoli, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts and cabbage. In addition to being good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, cruciferous vegetables produce compounds (indoles and isothiocyanates) during cooking, chewing and digestion that are thought to inhibit the development of cancer cells. As if that isn’t enough, they may also help to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease through their abilities to decrease inflammation.

Colorless: Flavonoids are actually mostly colorless but they are an important nutrient for good health. There are more than 5,000 flavonoids that have been grouped into six categories: flavanols (found in grapes, apples, onions and cranberries); flavones (celery, lettuce and brussel sprouts); flavanones (citrus fruits); flavan-3-ols (white wine, chocolate, teas, and, legumes); isoflavones (soybeans and soy products); and anthocyanodins (red and purple fruits and vegetables). These compounds help to prevent cell damage, decrease inflammation and play a role in regulating blood sugar.

Using color as a guide is a great way to ensure your family is meeting nutrition recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. Not only does color add excitement to an otherwise boring plate, it also provides useful information about the health benefits of your favorite foods. Choosing a variety of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables can be a simple way to balance your plate, make a meal more interesting, and improve your health overall.


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Love of theme parks provides motivation for Lifestyle Change Award winner

Trevor Feuring loves theme parks. In fact, he loves them so much that every year, he makes a solo trip to a different park for a weekend of thrilling rollercoasters and other rides.

Trevor Fuering
Less than a year ago, Trevor Feuring weighed 345 pounds and was at risk for obesity-related health issues like heart disease and diabetes.

However, in October 2016, while visiting Six Flags in St. Louis, he received a wake-up call that would change his life.

“I was about to ride the Batman rollercoaster, when the ride attendant told me if the seatbelt wouldn’t fasten completely, I couldn’t go on the ride,” he recalled. “It hit me that if I was going to continue to visit a theme park every year, I needed to get healthier.”

Feuring, who lives in Robinsonville, Miss., and works as the lighting coordinator for Bluesville at the Horseshoe Casino, weighed 345 pounds. He began following a low-carb diet, quit eating fried foods and began taking daily walks around his apartment complex.


Since adopting a low carbohydrate diet and exercising regularly, Trevor Feuring has lost nearly 100 pounds.

“At first, I would get winded after six laps around the complex,” he said, “but eventually, I was able to build myself up to eight to 10 laps, and I have even added in some running.”
Coupled with strength training and calisthenics, the weight began to melt away.

However, when Christmas rolled around, he struggled.

“That was the hardest time of year when it came to sticking to the diet,” he said. “People would bring me food-based gifts, but I just had to stay motivated and know what I was doing it for.”

In just a little over eight months, Feuring has lost 96 pounds. He’s down to 249, and hopes to eventually hit his goal weight of 220.

Feuring’s dedication to his new lifestyle is one of the reasons he was selected to receive the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle Change Award.

The Lifestyle Change Award, which is sponsored locally by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, is awarded to individuals who have made positive changes to improve their quality of life and health.

Each quarter, the American Heart Association accepts nominations for the award, and a committee picks the winner after reviewing the nomination. Feuring was selected as the fourth quarter winner.

“I am so honored to be recognized for what I’ve accomplished,” he said. “I have to work extra hard now to keep losing weight, but I know it is going to be worth it in the end.”

Just a few weeks ago, Feuring had the opportunity to visit King’s Island Theme Park in Ohio,  but he has an even bigger goal for 2018.

“My parents took me to my very first theme park, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia,” he said. “So next year, I plan to return to favor and take them.”

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Top Ten Tips for Healthy Grilling and Barbecuing

Who doesn’t love to cook together with friends outdoors in the summer by the pool and barbecue some tasty treats? The best part is that grilling can be one of the healthiest ways to cook! Just follow our top ten tips for healthy grilling and barbecuing.

Grilled Fruits Heart Healthy Grilling and BBQ TipsPick the perfect protein.
Fish, skinless chicken breast and lean ground poultry are all healthier choices. The good fats in fish like salmon and trout actually have health benefits. And when you grill with skill, your guests won’t even miss the red meat, which usually has more saturated fat. Wrap marinated fish fillets in foil, construct colorful chicken kebabs, or make more savory turkey burgers by mixing minced portabella mushrooms and onions into the patties. If you do choose meat or pork, get “loin” or “round” cuts and “choice” or “select” grades of beef instead of “prime.”

Rightsize your portions.
A healthy portion of any type of meat is about 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards, and definitely no more than 6 ounces. If that sounds small, just remember all the delicious grilled veggies and side dishes that will be keeping it company on your plate!

Give it a soak or rub.
We’re not talking about a spa day! Marinating or rubbing spices on poultry, fish and meat can add amazing flavor with the bonus of being able to use less salt. All you need is about ½ cup of marinade or 1 tablespoon of spice rub for each pound of food. Try this simple marinade recipe and find others in our recipe center. Make a simple rub of your favorite spice (such as allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, paprika or rosemary) and black pepper. Safety tip: never reuse marinade or rub after raw meat has touched it.

Add color – lots of color.
Just about all your favorite colorful fruits and veggies can be grilled, alone or in kebabs, giving them delicious flavor that might win over even the most committed carnivore. The trick is to cut them into pieces that will cook quickly and evenly. Brush with a healthy oil to prevent sticking or use a grill basket to keep them out of the line of fire. Some favorites include asparagus, avocado, bell peppers, corn, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, squash and zucchini.

Say bye to the bad fat.
Buy skinless poultry or remove the skin before cooking. Trim away any visible fat on meat. Brush or marinate foods with a healthy cooking oil. And let ‘er drip – make sure fat drips away from the food while it cooks.

Let the simple grilled goodness shine through.
Don’t drown your grilled masterpiece in salty sauces, sugary condiments or heavy dressings. Use as little of these as possible, and try making your own healthier condiments. It’s easier than you think! And sometimes, a simple squeeze of lemon or lime is all it needs.

Choose healthier sides.
Swap the traditional store-bought barbecue fare like baked beans, cole slaw, macaroni salad and potato salad – which can have a lot of saturated fat, sodium and added sugars – for healthier homemade versions. Or change it up and do a colorful bean salad, fruit salad or leafy green salad.

Make your buns whole grain.
Whole-grain buns and breads will complement your healthy feast with extra fiber, flavor and texture. If you’re watching your calories and carbs, try an open-faced burger or lettuce wrap.

Grill fruits for dessert.
The natural sugars caramelize in the high heat, giving them extra sweetness and flavor. Try sliced apple, pear or pineapple or halved bananas, figs, nectarines, peaches or plums.

Keep it clean.
OK, so this isn’t the fun part, but be sure to scrub down the rack or grill pan after each use. Removing leftover burnt pieces of food stuck to the grill prevents burning, smoking and bitter flavors the next time you use it.

To learn more about healthier grilling, visit 

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Boosting brain breaks in the workplace

Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto already had a healthy vending policy that was adopted years ago. In the fall of 2016, it sought to update and broaden that plan beyond making IMG_3919


smarter choices at vending machines and the cafeteria. It reached out to the American Heart Association (AHA)’s Accelerating National Community Health Outcomes through Reinforcing (ANCHOR) Partnerships Program, which helped hospital employees and staff find additional ways to expand their healthy eating habits at work. Thus, Baptist Memorial formally adopted AHA’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit.

The guidance and suggestions from the toolkit helped the hospital incorporate healthy food and drink choices into work meetings, conferences and other events. The hospital also has been sharing tips with its community business partners. Developing healthier eating habits in the day can lead to a healthier lifestyle overall, and reduce the chance of diet-related health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, all common illnesses among those living in DeSoto County.

The Challenge

The adult obesity rate in Mississippi ranks high in the nation. Within the state, the highest obesity rates for both adults and children are found in the Mississippi Delta, home to DeSoto County. Poor nutrition is a top contributing factor for obesity, as well as diabetes, stroke and heart disease. These and other related chronic illnesses can take a toll on a community’s economy by contributing to higher medical costs. It also can lead to reduced workforce productivity by increasing absenteeism. Making health-conscience dietary changes in the workplace, where many adults spend much of their day, can be crucial to helping people lead healthier lives.

The Solution

Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto formally adopted the AHA’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit to further improve its food environment and promote a culture of health. AHA’s ANCHOR team, as part of its ongoing task force work with the DeSoto County Community Health Council, helped the hospital find easy ways to incorporate toolkit suggestions into staff meetings, conferences, special events and other work-related activities. The AHA also provided the hospital with resources and helped lead toolkit training sessions to prominent community partners interested in learning more.

Sustaining Success

Baptist DeSoto’s adoption of AHA’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit has resulted in the hospital hosting toolkit training sessions for community and business partners, who can then go back to their workplaces and share their newfound  nformation with colleagues and management. This can help build widespread support for creating a culture of health at worksites throughout DeSoto County.

Policy, System and Environmental Change

Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto adopted the AHA’s Healthy Food and Beverages Toolkit, implementing a systems change within its organization. The hospital also continues to work with the AHA to fully develop and update its internal policies to reflect the systemic changes being made.


By large volume, the DeSoto County community supports the implementation of nutrition standards to increase the availability of healthy food options across the area. According to a survey commissioned by the AHA’ s ANCHOR program, 95% of voters agree that obesity is a problem for area residents, and a majority (91%) of voters agree that unhealthy eating habits are a problem among areas residents. And 89 percent of likely voters in DeSoto County believe that it is important that there are healthy food options available in vending machines, cafeterias, or meals served in local workplaces.

In the fall of 2016, Baptist Memorial formally embraced AHA’s Healthy Food and Beverage Guidelines Toolkit, adding its principals and guidelines to the healthy vending policy it had adopted years earlier. The hospital arranged for the AHA to support its efforts by providing resources and toolkit training sessions for interested

The first training session to take place in February 2017 and was a lunch-and-learn presentation about nutrition, diet and healthy work-place choices. The AHA conducted the presentation with Baptist DeSoto’s staff dietitian to members of Leadership DeSoto, a program by the DeSoto County Economic Council that prepares and provides leadership opportunities for emerging policymakers and trendsetters.

Get Involved

Learn about the steps you can take to create a culture of health at your worksite – or how to encourage your management to adopt such an environment. More information about workplace wellness can be found here, while specific information about incorporating smarter dietary choices can be found within AHA’s Healthy Workplace Food and Beverage Toolkit.

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