Chef's shares cooking teips
Sgt. Maj. Mark Warren demonstrates heart healthy choices with the help of Taylor and Olivia Wilson at an American Heart Association community event at Gillfield Baptist Church, Petersburg. Warren volunteered his time to help motivate community members to cook at home more often.

FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 17, 2011)-"If I don't know how to read it, why should I eat it?"

Those were the words of Sgt. Maj. Mark Warren during an American Heart Association live-cooking event, at Petersburg's Gillfield Baptist Church Saturday, where community members learned the importance of cooking smart and eating healthy. Warren was referencing the processed foods many Americans pick to eat as they juggle busy schedules. The event highlighted the AMA's newest program "Simple Cooking with Heart," which is funded by the Wal-Mart Foundation.

Warren - who is the sergeant major at the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence and president of the Old Dominion Chapter of the American Culinary Federation - volunteered with the AHA and their supporters to demonstrate healthy, simple cooking.

More than 50 people assembled in the church's hall to watch as Warren pulled together three heart-healthy and palette-pleasing dishes and explained some basic culinary skills. The recipes called for olive oil, vinegar and fat-free sour-cream instead of higher fat ingredients such as mayonnaise.

"I always look for ways I can give back to my community and this was a great opportunity to do so," Warren said. "I can share some basic kitchen tips and show a variety of ways to use the products available to us."

AHA event coordinator Hilda Lifsey said the program would help consumers with cooking techniques and serve as an inspiration to start eating out less by having fun cooking at home.

"Obesity is an epidemic in America with more than 149 million adults aged 20 years or older carrying excess weight or who are obese," Lifsey offered.

Warren told the participants the most important factor in meal planning is to first put items on the menu that support a healthy diet like plenty of whole grains and vegetables, and lean protein choices.

Warren used his own advice about healthy eating when he put himself on a diet more than six months ago and lost 35 pounds.

"Filling your menus with healthy items will give you less room for items that are less nutritious," he said. "My habit is to ask myself where the color is; if everything is brown, I make changes. It's not only about what we eat, but how much we eat. The best choices can be defeated if you eat too much of it. An average plate of food is four to six ounces more than we need, especially when dining out."

Petersburg resident Nannie Walker said she has high cholesterol and came to learn more about cooking healthy and keeping her weight under control.

"The dishes were very tasty, and I plan to use the recipes at home," she said.

For more information about eating heart healthy, visit AMA's website at

Page last updated Sun November 20th, 2011 at 23:11