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March 18, 2019


Eliminate Processed Foods; Add Easy Natural Food Recipes

March 18, 2019


Eliminate Processed Foods; Add Easy Natural Food Recipes

NEENAH, Wis. – When people are working on improving their health, one of the first places they start is with nutrition—and that includes patients who are managing concerns related to their cardiac health.

March is National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (, which focuses on the importance of making healthy food choices. For people who are looking to improve heart health, it’s a great time to find ways to improve diet and nutrition.

“Our whole approach to food is encouraging people to eliminate or reduce the processed foods in their diet and get back to cooking food from scratch,” said ThedaCare Executive Chef, Lawrence London. “We’ve lost that in our culture over the past 20 or 30 years. Spending more time at home cooking food with our families, and then eating together as a family is important. That’s good for heart health, too.”

Processed food tends to contain fat, salt and added sugars, and some foods like deli meats can include chemicals and preservatives.

“Not only is the salt and fat not healthy for the heart, but it may also increase cancer risk or  contribute to other health issues,” London said.

London works with the cook staff throughout the ThedaCare system to teach them to prep meals from scratch, focusing on recipes using vegetables, whole grains and fruits and a limited amount of animal proteins. When London and his staff do use meat, they seek hormone-free, antibiotic-free and grass-fed products.

The extra additives in processed foods—particularly sugars—is a factor commonly tied to obesity, which may increase the risk factor for coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular health issues.

“We’re consuming all these empty calories and gaining weight, and that’s not good for our heart health or diabetes, or any other health issue,” London said.

People may not believe they can prep good, tasty meals in a short amount of time. London said to do this, it is just a matter of changing habits.  

“Our staff learned quickly that it isn’t more work, it’s just different work,” he said. “In fact, one long-term member of the staff said, ‘This is how we used to do it 25 years ago.’ We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We’re just getting back to the way it used to be.”

For one easy-to-prepare, tasty, heart-healthy meal, try this chicken recipe:

Chicken “Piccata” Style 

Ingredients:                                 Yield:  5 servings

1 lb. Chicken Breast

½ tsp. Kosher Salt

¼ tsp. Black Pepper, ground

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 Tbs. Canola Oil

½ cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 tsp. Capers

1 Tbs. Lemon Juice

1 cup Vegetable Stock, low sodium

1 ½ tsp. Cornstarch

2 tsp. Water

Method: Trim away any excess fat and cut chicken breast into 2 oz. pieces. Place chicken pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap and gently pound with a mallet to 1/3-inch thickness. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in whole wheat flour. Heat half of olive oil in a non-stick pan and sauté chicken “scaloppini” until golden brown on first side.  Turn and sauté on second side for about one minute. Remove chicken from pan and reserve on a plate. Add remaining oil to pan and add garlic. Sauté until garlic begins to color, being careful not to burn. Deglaze pan with lemon juice, capers, and vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer. Combine cornstarch with water to form a slurry and whisk into the simmering liquid. Continue to simmer, reducing to desired consistency. Add chicken back into sauce and reheat for one minute. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, plate and serve. Serve over whole wheat pasta, a favorite brown rice pilaf, etc.

Note: A foolproof way to make perfectly tender chicken every time: Substitute different herbs, vegetables and stocks to create an endless variety of flavorful, low fat, low sodium, dairy-free chicken dishes.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.