Creating a Heart Healthier Diet
There are many factors that affect heart health from genetics and lifestyle to diet and exercise. While you can’t control your family history, you can control how active you are and what you eat. Making healthy choices when it comes to meals and snacks can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and other conditions. February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to review your diet and identify opportunities to be more heart smart.
Remember that you don’t have to overhaul your pantry and refrigerator overnight. Start slowly focusing on making small, manageable changes. For instance, switching from whole milk to a lower fat milk or from white bread to whole grain bread.
Eat More Produce
Fruits and vegetables should make up a significant part of your diet. Fresh, frozen, and canned produce all have their benefits. Look for products that don’t have added sugar or salt. Add a piece of fresh fruit to your breakfast each day, have a side salad with your lunch, or chop up some vegetables to steam with your dinner. You can even blend up a mix of fruits and vegetables to make a delicious smoothie.
If you’re worried about lack of flavor, experiment with different spices and herbs while steering clear of adding extra salt and butter. Swap out coconut oil for olive, sesame, or canola oil instead, as these are healthier fats, but they should still be used in moderation.
Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, but that doesn’t mean to load up your plate with meat. If you are eating meat, opt for a lean cut that is low in fat. Fish like salmon and tuna can be good options as well, as they also contain omega-3 fatty acids which promote better heart health.
There are non-meat sources of protein as well such as eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, soy, nuts, and seeds. Plant-based proteins can be a wonderful filler for soups, a nutritious side, or even the main course.
Choose Whole Grains
The more processed a food is, the less healthy it tends to be. White starches often offer little nutritional value. Swap out your white rice for brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur, and replace white bread with whole-grain bread. Have plain oatmeal for breakfast with some fresh or frozen berries sprinkled on top.
Whole grain foods are often fiber rich as well to help you feel full. These foods also play a part in controlling blood sugar and reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, which supports a healthier heart.
Foods can be deceiving. Things that look healthy might actually not be as nutritious as you think. Pay attention to sodium content, saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar. Try to shop around the outside edge of the store where the fresh foods tend to be and limit processed foods and frozen meals. Make your own freezer meals by preparing foods at home so you can control the ingredients and know exactly what is in them.
Pay attention to serving size as well. One package might have multiple servings, so the amount of salt or sugar listed on the label must be multiplied by how many servings you eat. You can quickly reach the recommended daily limits with just a few foods, so choose wisely.
Be Heart Smart in Glenview & The North Shore
Plan your meals in advance and aim to create a well-balanced diet that fits your nutritional needs. Talk to your doctor about your heart health and what you should take into consideration when managing your diet. An in-home caregiver can be a wonderful resource to assist you with developing a shopping list, picking up groceries, preparing meals, and storing leftovers so you can focus on making healthier choices.