"It's high time to lower your cholesterol" is the message the American Heart Association hopes to spread across the country this week, as the organization kicks off its third annual Food Festival today.

In an effort to educate consumers about the role of diet in heart health, the AHA is scheduling a host of activities -- ranging from the creation of an anticipated 1,000 foot long whole-wheat hoagie in Witchita, Kan., to a "Grocery Grand Prix" involving local celebrities in Honolulu -- in an estimated 8,500 supermarkets and hundreds of schools, hospitals and cafeterias throughout the country.

And for the first time, the AHA has enlisted the support of various commodity groups -- including dairy, egg, and red meat councils -- to demonstrate how all types of foods can be incorporated into an AHA-approved diet, with its emphasis on low fat, low cholesterol foods.

"There's been a lot of public misconception, about red meat in particular," says Lynne W. Scott, the Food Festival's Texas-based vice-chairman. For its part, the Texas Beef Industry Council is distributing within the state 5 million brochures outlining the proper selection and preparation of meat products.

Close to 92 million shoppers have been reached via the Food Festival programs in each of the past two years, according to the AHA. And the message is an urgent one, considering that half the adult population in the United States has a cholesterol level above 200 milligrams per deciliter, the point at which the risk of heart disease increases significantly.

From the fourth edition of the "American Heart Association Cookbook" come the following heart healthy recipes:

Express Lane list: curry powder, fresh fish (such as haddock, perch, flounder or sole), almonds, chutney for serving (optional), carrots, lemon juice, sherry, chives CURRIED FILLETS AMANDINE (4 servings)

1/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons curry powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound fresh fish fillets

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) margarine

1/3 cup chopped, blanched almonds

Chutney for serving (optional)

Combine flour, curry powder and pepper, and thoroughly coat fillets with the mixture.

Heat margarine in a large skillet, add the fillets, and saute' over moderate heat until browned, about 4 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side, cooking until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove to a heated platter.

Add almonds to the margarine remaining in the pan and cook, stirring until browned. Pour over fish and serve with chutney, if desired.

360 calories per serving

BAKED GRATED CARROTS (6 servings)

3 cups grated carrots

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon chopped chives

Place grated carrots in a casserole. Pour over melted margarine, lemon juice and sherry. Sprinkle with chives. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

65 calories per serving.

In conjunction with area supermarkets, the AHA is sponsoring the following Food Festival activities, all of which are open to the public:

Today -- Food Festival prerecorded tour for shoppers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Safeway, Hechinger Mall, Washington

Heart Healthy Cooking Demonstration, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Someplace Special Giant Gourmet, 1445 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean

Monday -- Food Festival prerecordered tour for shoppers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Safeway, Hechinger Mall

Food Tasting, manned by registered dietitians, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Giant, 359 Maple Ave. E., Vienna

Low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium cheese tasting, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Safeway, 1101 University Blvd., Langley Park

Food tasting, 7 to 9 p.m., Giant, 14125 St. Germain Dr., Centreville

Guided grocery store tour conducted by a registered dietitian (registration required, call 941-8500), 7 to 8 p.m., Giant, Turnpike Plaza, 9570 Main St., Fairfax

Tuesday -- Food Festival prerecorded tour for shoppers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Safeway, Cherrydale, 3713 Lee Highway, Arlington

Food tasting demonstrations: Cheese tasting, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Prince Frederick Safeway, Dares Beach Road, Calvert County

Food tasting demonstration: Vegetable and salad dressing, 4 to 6 p.m., St. Charles Safeway, Smallwood Center, Waldorf, Md.

Food tasting, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Safeway, 1855 Wisconsin Ave., NW., Washington

Food tasting: Cheese, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Langley Park Safeway, 1101 University Blvd., Prince George's County

Food tasting, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Safeway, 3526 King St., Alexandria

Guided tour of grocery store conducted by a registered dietitian (registration required, call 941-8500), 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., Giant, Kings Park, 8970 Burke Lake Rd., Springfield

Wednesday -- Food Festival prerecorded tour for shoppers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cherrydale Safeway, 3713 Lee Highway, Arlington

Food tasting demonstration: Vegetable and salad dressings, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Lexington Park Safeway, 390 Great Mills Rd., Prince George's County

Food tasting, 6-8 p.m., Yorktown Square Giant, 8100 Arlington Boulevard, Falls Church

Heart Healthy Lunch and dinner menus, St. Mary's Hospital, Leonardtown, Md.

Thursday -- Food Festival prerecorded tour for shoppers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Safeway, Briggs Chaney Shopping Mall, 13814 Outlet Dr., Silver Spring

Food tasting, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Safeway, Great Falls, 9881 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls

Food tasting, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Safeway, Waterside Mall, 401 M St. SW

Food tasting: Vegetable and salad dressing, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., La Plata Safeway, Route 301, La Plata

Food tasting: Vegetable and salad dressing, 4 to 6 p.m., Bryans Road Safeway, Bryans Road Shopping Center, Md.

Food tasting, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Safeway, Lee-Harrison, 2500 N. Harrison St., Arlington

Food tasting, 6-8 p.m., Safeway, Willston Plaza, 6118 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church

Friday -- Food tasting, 10 a.m. to noon, Giant, Groveton-Beason Mall, 6800 Richmond Highway, Alexandria

Food festival prerecorded tour for shoppers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Safeway, Briggs Chaney Shopping Mall, 13814 Outlet Dr., Silver Spring

Low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium cheese tasting, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Giant, 1280 East-West Highway, Silver Spring

Food tasting, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Giant, Herndon Marketplace, 1228 Eldon St., Herndon

Saturday -- Food tasting, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Safeway, South Lakes, 11120 South Lakes Dr., Reston

Food tasting, noon to 2 p.m., Giant, Burke Center, 6011 Burke Center Parkway, Burke

Low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium cheese tasting, 3 to 5 p.m., Giant, 842 Muddy Branch Rd., Gaithersbur