by The Culinistas

(as part of our Wellness Through Food: Way to Your Heart series)

We put a lot of thought and effort into our Culinista dishes — from the flavor to the health benefits to how these dishes hold up in your fridge. 

But we’re also big fans of being thoughtful about what our dishes are served on, which is one reason we love Livliga so much. Their portion control dinnerware is thoughtful, keeping your health top of mind, without compromising on aesthetics or quality. 

We sat down with Livliga founder and CEO Sheila Kemper Dietrich to talk all things heart for our latest Wellness Through Food initiative. Here, Sheila discusses why we need to pay attention to heart health from a young age, the power of sitting down for a meal and following her heart at age 50 to start Livliga.

The Culinistas: Why do you think some are half-hearted about heart health?

Sheila Kemper: I think it can be overwhelming to follow all the recommendations for living life as your healthiest self, especially when you have a pre-existing health challenge like obesity, heart disease and/or diabetes. When I was the Executive Director of the American Heart Association in Denver, we focussed on breaking down the steps you can take to live a healthier life and creating community around those steps so you don’t feel so overwhelmed and alone on your journey. At Livliga we now do the same thing!

TC: What’s one easy step anyone can take to protect their heart?

SK: Focus on creating a healthy food environment in your own home. Set a bowl of fruit on your counter. Put all the healthy foods in the front of your refrigerator so they are easy to see and easy to get to. Clear out your pantry and freezer of all the not-so-healthy foods and trigger foods that can get you off track. And make sure you always sit down to eat at a table that is your designated place to eat. Serve up your food (we recommend serving up on right-sized dinnerware like Livliga!), use utensils, turn off the TV and have a conversation with those in your home or someone on Facetime you want to connect with. Focus on making eating a healthy experience.

TC: What’s the biggest impact of a healthy diet on heart health?

SK: What we eat and how much we eat is all about how we want to live life as our healthiest selves. It not only helps our bodies to perform at their best but it also influences how we go about living our lives in general. Eating healthy makes us feel better, have more energy, and motivates us to go for achieving our bucket list!

TC: What’s the biggest myth about heart health?

SK: That it is only something old people need to worry about. How we treat our hearts now can make such a difference in how we enjoy life now and in the future. Our heart is at the core of our well-being.

TC: What is one dish or food that is the way to your heart?

SK: I confess, I am a foodie so just picking one dish is hard… Salmon is always a go-to for our family. It is tasty and easy to prepare in a variety of ways.

TC: What’s your go-to cure for a broken heart?

SK: A good cry watching a classic movie like An Affair to Remember while munching on warmed dark chocolate chips and popcorn.

TC: What’s one thing you’ve always had your heart set on, but never tried?

SK: I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands. The unique setting and the diversity of animal and plant life captured my imagination at an early age and it has been on my bucket list for a long time. It is now top of the list!

TC: What’s something you’ll always hold near and dear to your heart? 

SK: When I received the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for my children’s book, Sammie and Sax in the Land of Quinoa: The Search for a Balanced Meal that is part of our Kidliga line at Livliga. When I wrote the book there was nothing available that was exposing and teaching kids about healthy eating and what a balanced meal is. The book takes Sammie and Sax on an adventure of discovery and ends with recipes of the balanced meal they ultimately design. It encourages kids to get involved in what they eat and how to prepare the foods they eat.

TC: Tell us about a time you followed your heart and it paid off.

SK: Starting my own company, Livliga, in my 50s was definitely a leap of faith and a time when I felt so compelled to follow my heart. So many people, including me, need help to right-size their world. We are surrounded by a super-sized world from the ads we see, the food we are served in restaurants and the plates we can buy in stores. We have no frame of reference for right size. We don’t even know what a recommended serving size is for each food group…because we are never taught the basics in nutrition at home or at school. That is why in 2011 I left my job at the American Heart Association and started the journey to create Livliga, a way of incorporating mindful eating into everyday life.

We asked Sheila to select six of her favorite dishes from our Way to Your Heart menu and tell us why:

Edamame Dip with Radishes

smooth blended edamame & basil with ample lime for balance

“There is nothing better for your heart than colorful vegetables!”

Tomato Gazpacho 

classic cold tomato soup with crispy rye croutons

“Soups are filling and generally low calorie so they are great for maintaining a heart-healthy diet.”

Salmon with Raisin Scallion Sauce

simple salmon with a sweet onion sauce

“Salmon is top of the list of heart-healthy proteins.”

Tahini Roasted Cauliflower

a tahini-crusted cauliflower with a sweet chive sauce

“Cauliflower is one of the cruciferous vegetables; these vegetables are filling and also help us with inflammation which is particularly important for our long-term heart health.”

Grilled Stone Fruits

elevated fruit salad by treating each ingredient with extra attention

“Fruits are a great option for “dessert” and grilling stone fruit brings out the sweetness of the fruit and makes it seem special and a treat while still honoring our hearts!”

Morning Glory Bread

carrot, zucchini, banana, sunflower seed bread

“For many, in order to feel a meal is complete, we need to have our carb and eat it, too! This Morning Glory Bread is a spectacular example of how your carbohydrate can be made up of healthy ingredients while satisfying the need for a “starch” and still be heart healthy.”

Follow along with our Way to Your Heart initiative on Instagram.