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Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for all Americans? There are many risk factors that can contribute to heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, diabetes and obesity.
Since February is American Heart Month, we want to focus on providing lifestyle tips that can help you put your heart first! One of those lifestyle tip/changes is the importance of healthy eating and what nutrients we are getting from our diets. Sourcing healthy food and cooking meals can be intimidating, but there is good news. You do not have to be a top chef or have a large grocery budget to eat healthy.
The National Health, Lung and Blood institute gives 5 tips for heart healthy eating.
- Eat Smart: Pay attention to your portion sizes, use smaller plates or smaller serving spoons. Fill your plate with fruit/veggies first, then add the rest of your meal. Read your nutrition label, paying close attention to added sugars, sodium levels and saturated fats.
- Choose Healthy Snacks: Pay attention to the calorie/sugar content of your daily snacks. Use a snack has an opportunity to add a fruit/veggie or protein to your day. Have a cup of strawberries, handful of unsalted nuts or a cup of cherry tomatoes.
- Dine out the healthy way: You can eat healthy when you decide to go out to eat or order take out. Go for baked, broiled, roasted or grilled items. Watch your portions. Restaurant portions are usually twice as large as a normal portion (you can always have lunch for the next day!). Ask for dressings, sauces, butter or gravies to be on the side.
- Plan to eat heart healthy: Meal planning goes a long way when it comes to making sure you are getting the right food/nutrition for your body. Plan your out your meals each week and pay attention to what kind of meals you are making at home. Include lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Try to limit added sugar and saturated fats. Once your meals are planned this can help build your grocery list.
- Find Heart-Healthy menus to enjoy: Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating foods you do not like. If you hate it, it will be nearly impossible. Find a way to make heart-healthy eating a part of your lifestyle and something you know you can maintain. There are a ton of great resources for heart healthy recipes— DASH diet, American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic and many more!
Once you feel comfortable with your first heart healthy lifestyle change, start thinking about what you would like to focus on next. Some areas to start with could be increasing physical activity, stress management, proper sleep, mental health and living a nicotine free life.
It is important not to overwhelm yourself with too many lifestyle changes at once. Take it one day at a time and know that you may take few steps back, but you can always continue to move forward.