Parks Department holds heart healthy class for V-Day

February 21, 2013 Denise Romano
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In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Parks Department hosted a series of heart-healthy workshops and events in senior centers around the city on February 14.

At the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, nutritionist Ellen Schoninger gave tips on healthy eating.

“Most people get information from their doctor, but it’s overwhelming and at times you only hear half of what is being said,” she explained. “People need constant reminders. You have to take baby steps and have to learn how to prioritize.”

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Schoninger is employed by Parks and usually works with kids at after school programs. She said that older people tend to eat a lot of fast, prepared and canned food that contain a lot of salt.

“I tell them to eat frozen instead, if they can’t get fresh food,” she said.

Kenneth and Anne Carlsen were among the couples who asked Schoninger for some diet advice. He said that he recently gained 10 pounds and his doctor would like to see him lose it. Carlsen has no health problems, such as hypertension or diabetes, but is not able to walk for long distances.

Schoninger suggested that he do some very light weight lifting and stretching.

“You need to stress your muscles. It keeps your metabolism up and builds extra muscle up to maintain weight,” she explained.

But the issue for Carlsen – and for most of the population – is diet.

“I hate vegetables,” he said.

Schoninger advised “masking” vegetables in soups and pasta sauce.

There was just one more piece of advice. Since Carlsen is also a fan of fruit juice, Schoninger suggested that he eat real fruit instead, which fills you up better, with about half the calories.

“I don’t believe in people making 15 changes at once,” Schoninger said.

For more information or a schedule of events at the senior center, visit

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