February is National Heart Health Month and the nutritionists at Giant Food are committed to helping you care for your heart. Good nutrition is at the center of our health and by making smarter food choices you can help your heart beat longer and stronger. Here are some practical ways to make the dietary guidelines for a healthy heart part of your everyday life.
When shopping at the grocery store:
-If half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, so should half of your shopping cart! Start in the produce aisle and choose a variety of colors.
-Why not also try a new fruit or vegetable? Variety is good for your body and your palate.
-In the meat section, choose leaner cuts like tenderloin, sirloin or strip steak. Look for the nutrition facts poster above the meat case in your Giant’s meat section.
-Try different sources of protein, like tofu or beans. Season them the same way you would meat.
-An easy way to cut cholesterol and saturated fat is to use the low-fat and fat-free dairy options like skim milk and low-fat yogurts and cheeses.
-Get creative with your grains! Instead of rice, try quinoa in a stir fry. Barley is a great grain addition to soups.
When eating out:
-Look for items that are grilled, baked or steamed—these are generally prepared with less fat.
-Ask for no salt or butter on vegetables.
-Always get cheeses, sauces, dressings, and gravies on the side so you have control over how much fat and salt you are adding.
When at home:
-Use liquid oils rather than solid fats. Roast vegetables with sesame oil and garlic or stir-fry veggies and brown rice with canola or olive oil.
-Sprinkle walnuts, chia or flax seeds on salads, yogurt or oatmeal for a little extra crunch— your heart will thank you for the added benefit of omega-3 fats!
-Flavor your food with herbs and spices. Chili powder, cumin, and ginger are a delicious combo for mixed dishes, while rosemary and thyme are excellent on lean meats. Get creative, the options are truly endless!
Nutrients good for heart health:
-Soluble and insoluble fiber can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
-Choosing whole grains and eating plenty of fruits and veggies will help you get the fiber you need.
Omega-3 and unsaturated fats:
-Oily fish such as salmon, trout, and herring are good sources of omega-3s. Use herring instead of tuna for sandwiches or on whole grain crackers!
-Try replacing mayo with mashed avocado in deli salads and on sandwiches—it’s creamy, flavorful and much better for your heart!
Read the Nutrition Facts labels to help keep track of the fat, cholesterol, sodium and fiber in the foods you eat.
Sodium: Most people should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day to reduce the risk for high blood pressure, which puts stress on your heart.
-Look for single foods with 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving, and plan meals with around 500-800 milligrams of sodium.
- Good food choices that are generally low in sodium include:
- Fresh meats
- Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
- Canned or processed foods that have “low sodium” or “no added salt” labels on the package
Physical activity is important for heart health. Exercise helps maintain muscle mass, burn calories and improve fitness.
-Make activity fun! Sign up for a new class at a gym or walk with friends.
-Stand up and stretch or do a loop around the office every hour while at work.
Research shows that small bouts of activity throughout the day add up to huge health benefits.