“Giving up a year of your life”

It makes us very happy just how many people viewed our last post “The Nutrition Education Team…”! We hope that our readers will take full advantage of the expansion of the Nutrition Education program since we now have five AmeriCorps instead of two.

We started our new jobs on September 1st, 2015. The first few weeks were full of introductions, training, orientations, and more introductions. I feel as though I (Lauren) can speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we were warmly welcomed at the Clark County Food Bank. We all feel as though the work we do is greatly appreciated, especially as AmeriCorps members. One phrase we have heard a few people say over the course of the past few weeks is that we are “giving up a year of our life” to serve as AmeriCorps members. This phrase rang true to me each time I heard it, and so I asked the other AmeriCorps gals if they felt the same way. I asked them to share their thoughts on why they feel that people describe our year of service with these words, how that made them feel, and how they might prefer their year of service to be described.

First off, let me say that in no way are we upset that individuals have described our term as “giving up a year of our life”. Instead, we want to address this phrase because we wanted to understand why others see our term of service as a year of sacrifice.

There was a bit of research involved in response to why the AmeriCorps member think that others might describe our term as “giving up a year”. We found a couple articles online that used similar language. One article where the phrase was used almost word for word was in an article on Think Progress where Samantha Jo Warfield, press secretary at Corporation for National Community Service (the national agency for AmeriCorps) said that “You’re giving up a year of your life to this country.” In addition, we found that oftentimes, volunteerism is worded as “giving your time”. So, while it’s not “wrong” for others to describe our term as giving something up, we still felt as though these words put a negative spin on what this year really means for us.

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The Nutrition Education team helping out at Heritage Farm

We believe that the mindset that we are “giving up a year of our lives” stems from the fact that we are receiving very little pay for the huge amount of work we are doing for this year. We work full-time but only receive enough for paying basic needs, with little leftover for saving, recreational/miscellaneous/ luxury spending, or even paying off school debt. For some, this may seem like a huge sacrifice. However, we do not see the reward of serving as an AmeriCorps as one of monetary value; we see the reward in the experience. We are getting to serve people in need on a full-time basis, receiving experience in a field of work that can be quite difficult to work in right out of college, strengthen a community by becoming healthier and more aware of nutrition, all while getting to explore a new part of the country. All of these experiences are ever more rewarding than anything money could buy.

Maybe we (the five Nutrition Ed. AmeriCorps) are a bit different than most of our peers. It might be that we are looking for jobs that satisfy more than our bank accounts (or our parents). As our AmeriCorps member Blair Borax put it, “If I had the option to do what I love and I am passionate about for little money or to do what I dislike for all of the money in the world, I would choose what I love every time.”

We believe that we are not giving up a year of our life.

Instead, we are…

  • Doing amazing work to increase nutrition education in low-income communities.
  • Admirable, because we are choosing to serve a needy population while putting ourselves in a similar position.
  • Giving a year of our lives to serve the people in this country who need it most.
  • Very brave to put ourselves on a less traditional path and moving ourselves across country.
  • The people of our generation that will make a major impact for our country.

Feel free to steal any of those phrases to describe our service and term as AmeriCorps members or come up with your own and let us know what they are! We love our jobs and serving the communities we are in! We don’t want anyone to think that we are giving anything up in order to be at the Clark County Food Bank for the next year. We are thrilled to have this amazing opportunity!

If you have any thoughts on this phrase and our response, please feel free to leave a comment on our blog or any other social media in which we share this post!

~Lauren Cameron
2015 AmeriCorps Nutrition Educator


The Nutrition Education team helping Master Preservers from the WSU Extension make pear butter for Taste & See.

The Nutrition Education Team: Introducing the new 2015-2016 AmeriCorps members!!

Hello Clark County Food Bank (CCFB) blog readers!

It has been some time since our last post (over a year!) but we are excited to be back to blogging about the events and thoughts that we are having at CCFB! Writing for you today is Lauren Cameron, and I am one of the new AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators. If you aren’t real familiar with our Nutrition Education program, feel free to peruse the information on our official website. This post is all about introducing each of the new AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators (written by each of us so you get an idea of our different and awesome personalities). We are all genuinely excited and honored to become a part of the Nutrition Education team at Clark County Food Bank!


Hi, my name is Lauren Cameron. I lived in Kentucky since the year 2000 and I went to college in Berea, Kentucky where I studied Nutrition and Food Studies and did a minor in Health Studies. I also had the opportunity to become Yoga Teacher certified while going to college and I enjoy learning more about the practice. In addition, I am currently taking courses part time in order to apply for graduate schools to study Dietetics in the Fall of 2016.

I am very excited about working at the Clark County Food Bank and as an AmeriCorps member because it is letting me put into action many conversations I have had with classmates and professors while in my undergraduate study. I know that this job will have its challenges and may not feel rewarding every single day, but I am motivated to learn from every experience I have during this year and find a way to make it benefit the food bank and those we serve here.

Each summer while I have been in college has been quite special for me because of the people I get to spend it with. This summer was not very exciting since I was busy taking Chemistry and Microbiology, but it definitely had its highlights. I got to spend the whole summer with one of my sisters and my grandfather. It was nice to get to do crafts and spend time at the pool with my sister and cook supper (or just eat a very delicious meal) with my Papa.


Hello! My name is Shaelie Harper.  I am 24 years old and am from Holland, Michigan.  I attended Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and graduated with a B.S. in Nutritional Science with a specialization in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. A couple highlights of my time in college include being an intern on an urban farm for a semester and being elected as the vice president of the Nutritional Sciences Club.

Studying at MSU provided me with a lot of opportunities to get my hands dirty and to deepen my passion for food and farming. I was also fortunate enough to be able to receive my Permaculture Design Certification in Costa Rica in 2013, where I learned a lot about creating dynamic and holistic systems within an environment. I hope to one day be able to use this knowledge to create my own business of an organic farm/bed and breakfast somewhere in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  My interests include hiking, backpacking, camping, gardening, working out, nerding out about science, cooking, and making jewelry and herbal medicines.

I am excited to be an Americorps member as a Nutrition Educator with Clark County Food bank because it allows me to put my passion into action.  I love doing anything involving food; from growing it to cooking it to teaching about it.  I am grateful for my education and I want to share what I have learned with others in my community in hopes of making it a better, more sustainable place.

This May I went on a 7000 mile roadtrip with one of my friends throughout the entire American west.  We took two and a half weeks to travel from Michigan through 11 different states and stopped at amazing places such as the Redwood National Forest, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Arches National Park. It was one of the most adventurous trips I have been on and I am so thankful to live in such a beautiful country!


Hi, my name is Blair Borax. I grew up in Northern New Jersey and graduated from University of Vermont in May 2014. From the Honors College, I received a dual degree in Studio Art and Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. I also received my Permaculture Design Certification through a 4-month study abroad program in Israel-Palestine. During college, I worked as an “Eco Rep” to educate my peers about how they can make healthier and more environmentally-conscious lifestyle choices. After graduating in 2014, I spent a year living and working on an organic farm in Northern California, teaching at-risk high school students organic farming, sustainable living, healthy eating, and character development. I am very passionate about utilizing gardening and nutrition education as a tool to inspire people to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them. I am very excited to continue to do so, in brand new ways, serving as an AmeriCorps Nutrition Educator with Clark County Food Bank this year.

This summer, I spent a month working at my Aunt’s chocolate store (yum!), enjoying time with my family in New Jersey, and gearing up for my cross-country road trip! I spent two and a half weeks driving across the northern part of the country, visiting a lot of friends and exploring beautiful places along the way. Some highlights includes the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota, Gallatin National Forest in Montana, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in Jackson, and Lake Tahoe in California! One of my most memorable moments was being in the Boiling River in Yellowstone National Park. This is the point at which Mammoth (very very) Hot Springs and the (very very cold) Yellowstone River converge, creating a very unique ecological site and human experience. As you wade through the water, one leg will be burning hot and the other will be freezing cold, but when you find the perfect sweet spot of hot and cold flowing water, it is heaven! It was so relaxing, I fell asleep in the water!!


Hi, my name is Christina Fortin. I am coming to Vancouver all the way from the east coast from the great state of Maine. I went to the University of Maine and received my B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a minor in Sustainable Food Systems in 2014. During this past year I was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Anti-Hunger & Opportunity Corps / Maine Hunger Initiative. I was serving Hancock County in Maine, which holds Acadia National Park, at Healthy Acadia- a Healthy Maine Partnership which empowers people and organizations to build healthy communities. My work focused on increasing food access to lower income individuals through USDA food assistance programs. These programs included: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- formally food stamps) for individuals and acceptance of these funds at farmers markets, the Summer Food Service Program establishing summer feeding sites for kids, and supporting various nutrition education classes and gleaning efforts connecting food that would have otherwise gone to waste to local pantries and community meals.

In the few short weeks that I’ve been on site at CCFB I have gotten really excited to serve a new area with nutrition education. I am really passionate about food, nutrition, and teaching. I am really looking forward to meeting more folks in the community and to start teaching!

As short as my summer was I really fit in a lot of excitement with adventures and visiting family and friends. Prior to leaving Maine I kicked off my trip with a weekend trip to Baxter State park and a full day hike of the tallest mountain in Maine- Mount Katahdin. I was able to be a part of a best friend’s wedding and spend my last few days with my closest friends on the coast. I embarked on a solo drive across the country on August 10th and stretched the trip to August 27th. Along the way I visited nine different cities and one national park (Arches).  My favorite moment of the trip was in Arches NP. I wouldn’t be meeting up with any friends that day so it was a lot of time alone and in the car. Once I was able to park and walk up to the arches I kicked off my shoes and ran through the sand. The arches are amazing and fascinating, but the feeling of my feet in the sand really reminded me of home and grounded me back to what this trip meant for me.


Hello, my name is Shaili Parekh. I’m from Phoenix, Arizona and studied Anthropology at Arizona State University and minored in Nutrition and Communications. I was the president of Real Food ASU, a club on campus that advocates for food systems issues and celebrates local and sustainable food. I was also a Nutrition Education Intern at Refugee Focus where I taught Nutrition Classes to newly arrived refugee women. My career goals are constantly evolving but I know that I want to continue to do community work surrounding food. Continuing work at a food bank, working at an extension office or going to culinary school are all possibilities! I’m excited to work at CCFB because I know I’m going to grow as an educator and leader in the community, and I can’t wait to get to know all the staff here! Everyone has been so welcoming and I can already tell that CCFB has a great work environment with great people!

This summer, I went to a music festival in California called Lightning in a Bottle as well as several road trips around Arizona to hike, camp, and explore. I visited Sedona, Flagstaff, and Tuscon and had a blast!

So that is our Nutrition Education AmeriCorps for the next year! We will be here until Mid-July of 2016 so feel free to introduce yourself to us and ask us your hard pressing questions via email, phone calls, etc. We would love to hear from you and know how we can help in providing Nutrition Education to the Clark County community.

Contact info:


Author: Lauren Cameron*

*Personal biographies wrote by that individual

New Partnerships for Teens

We are so excited to have a new partnership with RockSolid Teen Center in Brush Prairie, WA. We are teaching our 6-week SNAC curriculum with a group of 11 teens at their site! Bethel Lutheran Church, which shares a site with the teen center, has graciously allowed us to use their wonderful kitchen space to teach this class. I have been so impressed by how well these teens work together and how excited and eager they have been each week to learn such an important, lifelong skill. The cooking adventures with this group are just beginning though as classes will run through the beginning of June! Stay tuned to our blog and Facebook for updates on how the classes are going!


Garden Time

Today is the official day that the garden alarm clock has gone off! Way back in November, we had preschoolers put their garden beds to bed at the two Head Start sites for the winter. We layered browns and greens in a lasagna garden to let compost over the winter. Since then, those gardens have been…shhhh sleeping! But today, we woke them back up to get ready for some spring planting. After mixing up the lasagna beds and adding more soil, we measured off our square foot beds and even planted some broccoli and kale!

We garden with preschoolers as a part of the Growing Healthy Futures grant started last summer. Gardening with preschoolers and families of young children has numerous benefits. Studies have shown that children who are involved in gardening have a higher self-esteem, are more engaged in learning, fosters parent involvement in the school, and improve children’s attitudes towards fruits and vegetables. As a part of the Growing Healthy Futures program, families have the opportunity to tend a community garden plot through the help of a garden mentor. Providing this opportunity not only provides all those benefits for the children, but also makes fresh, healthy foods more accessible for families.

Stay tuned for some great garden stories and updates on how our plants are faring!

Friday Fun Food Facts

Fact: Often times we are so focused on “best practice” or the “newest research” that we can get bogged down in the nitty gritty details. These facts can sometimes be the dry part of our practice. So today I bring you (from the Folks at Random Facts) 10 random facts about nutrition history. All of these facts have been checked and cited by historians. The citations I am leaving on the quotes to continue to properly give credit where credit is due!

  1. “Many parents during the Roman empire who were influenced by doctors such as Soranus and Galen often denied their babies colostrum (protein-rich breast milk) believing it was too thick and not good for the child’s digestion. They regularly gave their babies to a wet-nurse (though the mother’s milk was usually the best) and were likely to wean their babies onto foods that lacked adequate nutrition, such as diluted cereals and mixtures of honey or wine with softened bread.e”
  2. “The English are sometimes called “limeys” because British sailors would eat limes to stave off scurvy. Limes were later replaced by lemons due to the lack of adequate vitamin C in lime juice.f”
  3. “Temperature can affect appetite. A cold person is more likely to eat more food.d”
  4. “The human digestive system is home to between 10 and 100 trillion bacteria, at least 10 times the amount of cells in the body. Some scholars speculate that intestinal bacteria differ in lean and obese people.i”
  5. “A person will usually swallow around 250 times during dinner.i”
  6. “In the United States, it is estimated that every adult unconsciously consumes one pound of insects each year due to garden produce, poor restaurant and home hygiene, and commercial foods for which the USDA allows a certain amount of insect fragments. Peanut butter, for example, is allowed to have 30 insect fragments per 100 grams.b”
  7. “Eggs contain the highest quality food protein known. All parts of an egg are edible, including the shell which has a high calcium content.c”
  8. “Ancient Mesoamerican cultures such as the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec used chocolate as medicine and as a medium in which other medicines were taken.b”
  9. “A 1552 B.C. Egyptian papyrus provides an early description of what seems to be diabetes and specifically mentions polyuria (frequent urination). Up until the eleventh century A.D., diabetes was typically diagnosed by “water tasters” who drank the urine of those thought to have diabetes. Those who had sweet-tasting urine were thought to have diabetes mellitus (Latin for “honey”), or Type 1 diabetes.a”
  10. “Improved nutrition (as well as vaccinations and antibiotics) has extended the average U.S. lifespan from 30 to 40 years old in the early twentieth century to 70 to 80 years old today.f”

 Random Facts References:

a Dalby, Andrew. 2003. Food in the Ancient World: From A to Z. New York, NY: Routledge.

b Etkin, Nina L. 2006. Edible Medicines: An Ethnopharmacology of Food. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.

c Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. 2002. Near A Thousand Tables: A History of Food. New York, NY: The Free Press.

e Garnsy, Peter. 1999. Food and Society in Classical Antiquity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

i Roday, Sunetra. 2007. Food Science and Nutrition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

f Kittler, Pamela Goyan and Kathryn P. Sucher. 1998. Food and Culture in America: A Nutrition Handbook.  2nd Ed. Albany, NY: West Publishing Company.

Healthy Pantry Project

Rain is probably the most peaceful thing in the world.  You are inside in front of a warm fire, entertained by a good book or good company. As a true Pacific North-westerner, there is nothing I like more. However, working at a food bank continues to remind me that rain does not bring such calm times to all of us. Many of the clients we see at our downtown pantries are homeless and rain means wet clothes, wet belongings and a cold place to sleep.

Remembering that this is a reality for many of us can be challenging when delivering nutrition messages. Being a “foodie” myself, I get very excited when I see new flavors paired together or a creative spin on an old favorite. Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Cauliflower Soup with Goat Cheese? Count me in! This recipe may not be the healthiest (creamy is a dead giveaway) but its got lots of veggies and has potential. The problem with this, and many other recipes like it, is that it is so involved. It requires a blender, expensive spices, and well honed knife skills. These are things that may not be available to our clients, especially those who are homeless. Maybe they are a fantastic cook, but don’t own/have anywhere to operate a blender?

The reason I bring this up is that too often the pendulum swings the other way. The recipe I mentioned about may not be perfect, but is certainly healthier than a bag of potato chips and a 24 ounce soda. Almost 100% of the time, the healthier choice can end up being the more costly choice (although you can save money if you plan effectively!). Having to make these decisions can be very taxing, and confusing.  If you need to rely on a pantry for your food needs, you often don’t even have a choice in what you collect. Some pantries are moving more towards a “shopping style” pantry but many still create a food box full of the different food groups to give to the client.

Here at the Clark County Food Bank, we are trying to bridge this gap. We serve 29 different pantries and hot meal sites in Clark County and are currently implementing programs to bring nutrition messages to the people who we serve most directly. We are doing that in a few different ways. We have created a recipe book to be kept at each pantry, so that the volunteers and staff can hand them out or create teaching moments. This recipe book is filled with simple recipes, that are cost effective, generally 6 ingredients or less, and require few electric kitchen equipment. Another way that we are trying to get nutrition and health messages out to the community is tool-kits for different produce items. We always give lots of fresh produce to our pantries, and we also harvest a good amount. Sometimes we obtain things that are a little unusual to the general public and thus we are creating recipes and handouts to help the pantries inform clients on how to best prepare it. Often these tool-kits are being given out as part of a tasting, where clients waiting in line can try some of the recipes provided. People are always surprised by what they like!

Those are just a few updates on our Healthy Pantry Project and nutrition education at the food bank.

Look for another update this Friday on another pressing nutrition topic. Maybe a summary of the new research on sugar!

All About National Nutrition Month

This month marks the 34th celebration of National Nutrition Month! If you’re not familiar with what National Nutrition Month entails, this blog post is for you. I will highlight what National Nutrition Month is on a national scale and then touch on why we recognize this month at the Clark County Food Bank!

National Nutrition Month is organized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a national nutrition education campaign that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. It’s a month to highlight nutrition education efforts that may already be taking place in the community as well as an opportunity to start new discussions and education around healthy eating habits. Nutrition is an important part of having a healthy lifestyle, so taking a month to recognize and be conscious of our nutrition choices is part of a larger effort to be healthy.

Now, since moving to Clark County, I have been astounded by the amount of awareness organizations in the community bring to nutrition. Many organizations, schools, and community efforts are put together to make a difference in the health of the community as a whole. Here at the food bank, we also place high importance on nutrition here in the office and when serving our clients. Kaitlin already shared one of the elements of National Nutrition Month that our staff participated in last week. And we’ve highlighted numerous ways in which the food bank engages in nutrition education through this blog already. As a refresher though, I’ve included a short blurb about the nutrition outreach we do here at the Clark County Food Bank.

Cooking Matters:

This national program has been operating for over a decade and it has been in operation at the Clark County Food Bank for about a year. In that short time frame, CCFB has had 126 adults complete the 6-week cooking and nutrition series, offered in both English and Spanish. With the help of volunteer culinary and nutrition experts, participants learn to shop smarter, make healthier food choices, and cook delicious meals for their families. Check out www.cookingmatters.org to learn more about this national program!

 SNAC (Student Nutrition and Cooking):

SNAC is a cooking and nutrition program specifically designed for middle and high school students. Through activities, games, and hands-on recipe preparation, teens learn the hows and whys of healthy eating that is both affordable and delicious. This program aims to increase confidence in the kitchen and equip teens with valuable skills for independence and excitement in the kitchen.

 Growing Healthy Futures:

GHF is a program to embed life-changing habits for children and families through a nutrition education and cooking program through collaboration with Educational Opportunities for Children and Families and WSU Extension. GHF offers a year-long program to families at Head Start sites. The program includes hands-on activities and covers topics such as basic cooking skills, preparing balanced meals, shopping on a budget, and garden education.

 Healthy Pantry Project:

This program is a collaboration of our partner agencies with the goal of encouraging food box clients to make healthy, budget-friendly food choices while shopping at the pantry and cooking at home. Activities include: facilitation of tastings for food box clients to encourage the use of unfamiliar foods, assisting with recipe development and distribution, and leading train-the-trainer sessions for pantry volunteers.

None of these programs would be possible without the dedication of countless Nutrition Education volunteers who give their time through various roles ranging from shopper, to lead assistant, to chef. If National Nutrition Month has inspired you to be a part of the nutrition education work in your community, we are always in need of volunteers. And in honor of this month dedicated to nutrition, we will be holding a Nutrition Education Volunteer Orientation on Tuesday, April 1st from 5:30-7:30pm. Contact nutrition@clarkcountyfoodbank.org to sign up!

The Results of the Chopped Clark County Food Bank Staff Contest

Happy National Nutrition Month! Here at the food bank we celebrated by challenging our staff to create nutritious snacks in less than 10 minutes. The results were very entertaining to say the least! Here are some of my favorite pictures:

Some of our staff working on their creations
Some of our staff working on their creations
Our contest winner made by James and Tim. Corn tortilla tacos, with kidney beans, red onions, kale and sour cream
Our contest winner made by James and Tim. Corn tortilla tacos, with kidney beans, red onions, kale, brown rice and sour cream


The food before 10+ staff members ran through to gather items as fast as they could.
The food before 10+ staff members ran through to gather items as fast as they could.


National Nutrition Month and The Healthy Recipe Contest

Hello everyone!

It seems like February just flew by before I had a chance to blink. What was your favorite part? Celebrating Valentine’s Day with loved ones? Getting snowed in? Either way, we are looking at March and March is….


March is a time to remember how important good nutrition is to our every day life and how we can help others who may be suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Here at the Clark County Food Bank we have a few events that are happening in March to celebrate National Nutrition Month! To encourage healthy habits, the Clark County Food Bank staff will be participating in a Chopped style contest at one of our staff meetings. We will have a few items from all different types of food groups and uses (sauces and such) and teams of 2 will have to duke it out to create the most interesting, “nutritious” snack in 20 minutes.  Don’t worry, we will take pictures! Look for them to be posted soon so that you can continue to get to know the wonderful folks at our office.

Lastly, a Clark County wide Healthy Recipe Contest will be happening from March 1st until March 28th. I will post a flyer with the details soon! You can enter into one of two categories:

1. Healthy Modification: This category challenges you to change recipes that you already love, but that may not be that great for you. However, if the original recipe was spaghetti with meatballs, the submitted recipe cannot be Chinese noodles with tofu.

2. MyPlate, My Way: a. This category challenges you to create a meal that has all of the food groups on My Plate, in roughly the same proportions as My Plate. A picture of My Plate is featured at the bottom of the page for reference.

If this contest gets you excited, sign up! Email nutrition@clarkcountyfoodbank.org or call 360-693-0939 to sign up now and let us know which category you want to try! More information on specific judging criteria will be sent upon sign up.

Now, why do you want to sign up?Because you could win a copy of The Oregonian Cookbook which features 30 years of recipes from the Oregonian’s Food Day news column. I have looked through it already and it is a wonderful collection of Pacific Northwest inspired recipes! I encourage you all to enter!


Happy Heart Day

In honor of Valentine’s Day from the Nutrition Education team here at the food bank, we are dedicating this post to sharing ways to love your heart through healthy food choices. And even though Valentine’s Day is reason enough to talk about our hearts, February is also American Heart Month which is a month set aside for recognizing how important it is to take care of our own heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the US which is also reason enough to talk about our hearts. Don’t bypass this opportunity to learn something new…

 Watch out for sodium!

Having too much sodium in our diets can cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts additional strain on our heart and blood vessels leading to cardiovascular disease in the long-term. Look for sodium listed on the Nutrition Facts label to find out how much an item may contain. High sodium culprits include canned food items and processed foods like chips or frozen dinners. One trick is to look for “Low sodium” or “No salt added” options when buying canned items. Rinsing canned items like beans or vegetables can reduce the sodium content by up to 1/3.

 Know your fats!

Fats are such a tricky topic to talk about nutritionally because not all fats are created equal. The two fats to keep your eye out for are trans fat and saturated fat. Artificial trans fat has been mostly eliminated from products after research proved how bad it was for our heart health. It can still be hiding in some foods though. Look for trans fat on the ingredient list, but to be absolutely certain there is no trans fat, check to make sure “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils aren’t included in the ingredients list.

Saturated fat falls along those same lines—a fat that can cause an increased risk for heart disease. Saturated fats will also be listed on the nutrition facts label. It’s a little harder to completely eliminate saturated fat from our diet though. It’s included in cheese or other milk products, meats, and some plant products that are good sources of other key nutrients needed for our bodies. But the less saturated fat in the diet, the better. In general, if a fat is solid at room temperature, it contains saturated fat and should be limited. So think butter, the fat in ground beef, and yes, coconut oil. The recommendation is to limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your daily calories. And despite all the hype of coconut oil, the current recommendation from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that coconut oil is a saturated fat and should fall into the same recommendation of limiting its consumption. There isn’t enough research on coconut oil to make the claims the media has made.

 Choose a variety of whole foods.

Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes, and seeds. These foods are packed with nutrients to keep your heart healthy

These are just three ways that nutrition can play into lowering your risk of heart disease. There are other strategies to lowering your risk of heart disease including exercising regularly, quitting smoking, knowing your numbers, and managing stress. Practice these healthy habits and you’ll be on your way to loving your heart a little more this Valentine’s Day.

Check out what the American Heart Association has to say about preventing heart disease here

And their Go Red for Women Campaign video here!