Cardiologists agree: A healthy diet and lifestyle are the keys to a healthy heart. For Heart Month, Health Matters asked Emilie Berner, chef and coordinator at the Chef Peter X. Kelly Teaching Kitchen at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, to share some heart-healthy cooking tips and other advice on healthy eating.
As part of her role at the teaching kitchen, Berner, who grew up in Cold Spring, New York, spends her time teaching heart-healthy cooking classes for the community, as well as simmering batches of soup for patients undergoing chemotherapy, showing middle and high schoolers how to read food labels and make healthy meals, and donating extra food to the local food pantry. In the warmer months, she and a group of volunteers harvest vegetables and herbs directly from the organic garden outside the teaching kitchen to use in her recipes.
No matter the recipe she is making or class she is teaching, her focus is on mindful, healthful eating and what it means to be healthy.
“What does ‘healthy’ look like in our families and communities?” Berner asks. “And when we’re thinking about the food on our plates, how do we cultivate a relationship with all the ingredients and understand what they are bringing to our bodies and to our health?”
For Berner, who loved to cook as a child and remembers making French toast for her dad, fruit salads for her mom, and cookies for her brother, food is a way to express love and care. She describes her path to cooking as a profession as a “really lucky, beautiful evolution and progression of interest.” She studied English and psychology at Barnard College, and in her final year took a class on the history of food in Europe. “I realized that there is a world in which food is more than just something you have to eat in order to survive,” she says.