Get Heart Smart by Eating Right

Published: February 02, 2016

by: Kathy Welsh, diet technician, LIFE Beaver County

February is deemed National Heart Month and has been since 1963, when Congress required the President to proclaim it as such to raise public awareness about heart disease.

Although February is dedicated to the heart, a healthy diet should be followed throughout the entire year and not just for one month. Many of us made plans to develop better eating habits at the start of the year. Are you sticking to this resolution? If you are, great! If not, bump up your nutrition in the following ways. Your heart will thank you!

Start by aiming to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protiens, and low fat dairy, while limiting food items high in sugar, sodium and fat. Read labels on packages. This will help you choose food products and make comparisons between similar products.

Vary your veggies. Read labels for sauces and seasonings. These can add extra fat, calories and sodium.

Focus on fruits. Set fruit out in a bowl on the counter where you can see it or cut it up in a clear container in the refrigerator. If it is not handy you may forget about it. Buy fruits in different forms - frozen, canned (in juice or water), or fresh.

Choose more whole grains. Substitute a whole grain product for a refined one. Switch from white bread to whole wheat bread. Try brown rice instead of white rice, or whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta.

Go lean with protein sources. Examples of lean cuts of beef include round steak and roast, top sirloin, top loin, and arm roasts. For lean pork try pork loin, center loin and tenderloin. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the leanest choices for poultry. Continue to trim off any visible fat, and broil, grill, roast, boil or poach meats, poultry, or fish instead of frying.

Choose low fat dairy products. If you are drinking regular milk, gradually switch to 1% or skim to lower fats and calories. Use fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a snack, as a dip or plain variety to top baked potatoes. When using cheese, use a low-fat product or one that lists fat as 2%. 
The general recommendation is to reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 millighrams a day (about 1 teaspoon), and less if there is a concern regarding any medical conditions. Sea salt is typically marketed as being healthier compared to table salt. Although they differ in taste, texture and processing, they have the same basic nutritional value. By weight, they both have about the same amount of sodium chloride. In other words, sea salt is still salt. The perference for salty foods is something you learn, which means that over time you can reduce your cravings for salt and salty foods. Gradually experiment by adding salt-free herbs and spices to your favorite foods and recipes.

When choosing fats, replace solid fats such as butter and lard with vegetable oils rich in monounsaturated fats, such as canola, olive and safflower oils and polyunsaturated fats such as soybean, corn and cottonseed oil. When purchasing a soft margarine, choose one that contains zero grams of fat. 

When it comes to changing your eating habits, there are many different ways to make it happen. Experiment and see what works best for you and your heart. 

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