edible nutrition


Renown’s Healthy Heart Program embraces the healing power of food.


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Chef Chris Wyatt shows cooking demonstration attendees the whole-food ingredients that go into his paella

The room is quiet and the students duly attentive as chef Chris Wyatt demonstrates how to make zoodles — vegetable "noodles" created by passing fresh zucchini through a spiralizer.

Suddenly, Wyatt grabs a six-foot-long zoodle and turns it into an impromptu jump rope. The class erupts with laughter. The reaction the chef wants — and obviously gets — could well be his mantra: Lighten up!

Wyatt is the food and beverage manager for Renown Health in Reno and also the Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation chef for its Healthy Heart Program. His central mission in the ICR is to help program participants — people who have recently faced serious coronary episodes — to transition from poor eating habits to healthier ones. In other words: lighten up the menu, the calories, and the scale. And the surest way to do that, according to Wyatt? Make it fun; lighten up the mood!

Blazing the trail

Renown's Healthy Heart Program represents an innovative approach to cardiac rehabilitation. Based upon the well-regarded Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise, this three-pronged focus on diet, exercise, and a healthy mind-body connection has been widely studied and shown to be highly effective in promoting weight loss, as well as preventing, controlling, and even reversing the progression of heart disease.

Renown currently boasts the only Pritikin-based cardiac program west of the Rockies, according to Lynice Anderson, ICR director.

The local program only is in its second year but already has yielded positive results for participants willing to commit to its rigors and the lifestyle change it requires.

"It's not for everybody," Anderson says, "but I will tell you, we've had tremendous outcomes."

The program requires a minimum of 12 weeks, during which participants are expected to complete 36 two-hour visits — one hour of medically supervised exercise and one hour of heart-healthy education. The latter includes lectures, a video series, and one-on-one sessions with a dietitian. But far and away the most popular educational activity, according to Anderson, is Wyatt's cooking school.

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From left, Sarah Williams, registered dietician nutritionist; Lynice Anderson, director of Renown Health’s Intensive Cardiac
Rehabilitation program; and Chris Wyatt, Renown’s food and beverage manager and intensive cardiac rehabilitation
chef for the Healthy Heart Program

Back to basics

For anyone familiar with the Pritikin diet, the nutritional basis of the Healthy Heart Program, such popularity may come as a surprise. After all, the primarily plant-centric regimen is a dramatic departure from the typical American diet.

Emphasis is on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nonfat dairy products. Lean seafood and animal proteins, such as white meat chicken, are permitted in small portions. And the cardinal rule: no added fats, no added salts, and no added sugars. None.

But if that sounds daunting, spend an hour with Wyatt in his demonstration kitchen, and you might reconsider. He not only makes it fun, but he manages to make the dishes taste delicious.

"Over the course of 12 weeks, you can really have an impact on changing their diet, gradually retraining their habits along with their taste buds," Anderson says. "Chris is not only teaching them how to make these foods, but teaching them to taste the real flavor of the food."

Students learn to read labels. They get useful shopping tips. They're taught to make easy, economical meals. And, perhaps most importantly, Wyatt shares his knowledge of how to use herbs and seasonings and the natural flavors of foods to create palate-pleasing meals.

Paul Bell is a graduate of the Healthy Heart Program. His wife, Karen, accompanied him to the cooking classes, a practice encouraged by ICR staff. Both say that the experience totally changed their lives.

"Before, it was all processed and prepared foods," Karen says. "We learned to cook totally differently. When Chris teaches you how to use the spices, you don't need salt. It tastes so good, it's just unbelievable."

The Bells say they will never go back to the old way of eating. Both have felt a huge difference in the quality of their health and their lives. And Paul is 30 pounds lighter.

Anderson is not surprised. "We assess quality of life scores, pre- and post-program," she says. "All improved! And everyone loses weight in this program. Everyone!"

Reno writer Barbara Twitchell spent an enjoyable afternoon with Chris Wyatt, observing his cooking class and indulging in his culinary creations. She learned a lot and was surprised at how good everything tasted. She's now inspired to lighten up many of her own recipes.

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A bowl of chef Chris Wyatt’s paella, prepared without any oils or salts


Renown's Healthy Heart Program is open to anyone with a qualifying medical diagnosis (cardiac event or intervention). Medicare and most insurance companies provide coverage. Individuals may be referred by their cardiologists or primary care physicians. For details, visit Renown.org or contact Lynice Anderson at 775-982-2492.

Chickpea Quinoa Salad*

(courtesy of Chris Wyatt, chef, Renown Healthy Heart Program, and food and beverage manager, Renown Health in Reno. Makes 6, 1-cup salads)

2 cups red quinoa, cooked according to directions
1, 15-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed
½ cup cucumber, diced
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
¼ cup red apple, diced
3 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 head romaine or green leaf lettuce, chopped
½ cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1, 9-ounce can mandarin oranges in 100 percent fruit juice or light syrup, with juice/syrup reserved for dressing
Orange Dream Dressing, to taste
For Orange Dream Dressing
Reserved mandarin orange juice/syrup (about ½ cup) or regular orange juice
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
Pinch of black pepper and crushed red pepper

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. In medium bowl, combine chickpeas, quinoa, cucumber, red bell pepper, onion, apple, and cilantro. Mix in a large spoonful of dressing. Layer lettuce, red cabbage, quinoa mixture, tomatoes, and mandarins. Pour over desired amount of dressing.

*Recipe developed by Chris Wyatt in accordance with Healthy Heart standards.


(courtesy of Chris Wyatt, chef, Renown Healthy Heart Program, and food and beverage manager, Renown Health in Reno. Makes 4 quarts or 8, 2-cup servings)

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each dried basil, granulated garlic, and granulated onion
½ teaspoon each black pepper and crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
4 cups no-salt-added vegetable stock
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
¼ head cabbage, roughly chopped
1, 15-ounce can each of no-salt-added kidney beans and no-salt-added navy beans, drained and rinsed
1, 15-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1, 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups whole wheat elbow pasta, cooked al dente
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

Apply a light coating of no-stick cooking spray to nonstick pan and turn heat to medium. Add onion, carrot, celery, zucchini, and garlic. Cook just until soft, about 5 minutes. Season sautéed vegetables with basil, granulated garlic, granulated onion, pepper, crushed red pepper, and oregano and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in bay leaves, vegetable stock, green beans, peas, cabbage, canned beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Cook until heated through, about 15 minutes. Add whole wheat elbow pasta and cook just until soft, 5 more minutes. Finish with fresh parsley.

*Recipe developed by Chris Wyatt in accordance with Healthy Heart standards.

Russian Borscht*

(courtesy of Chris Wyatt, chef, Renown Healthy Heart Program, and food and beverage manager, Renown Health in Reno. Makes 4 quarts or 8, 2-cup servings)

2 medium red beets (stems and roots removed)
4 to 6 cups water
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced or cubed into bite-sized pieces
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
¼ cup no-salt-added ketchup
⅓ head red cabbage, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 tablespoon apple juice concentrate
1, 15-ounce can no-salt-added kidney beans
4 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup dill, freshly chopped
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Boil beets for about an hour, or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Remove beets from water and let cool. Keep the now-red boiling water. Add potatoes and bay leaves to red water and boil 15 to 20 minutes. Gently spray no-stick cooking spray onto heated nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrots and cook until just lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add ketchup and stir to incorporate. Add carrot/onion mixture, cabbage, celery, apple juice concentrate, kidney beans with juice, vegetable broth, lemon juice, dill, and pepper to pot of beet water. Peel and slice beets and add to pot, all ingredients included, for another 5 to 10 minutes.

*Recipe developed by Chris Wyatt in accordance with Healthy Heart standards.




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