Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easy Heart Healthy Food Choices

Experts agree that building a healthy heart should include many strategies. Here are some healthy eating tips that can help keep your heart beating for a full lifetime.

Most Americans eat a diet high in saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and calories and low in plant-based foods.

Change the balance! Eat more plant-based foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. They’re colorful and tasty if you season them instead of smother them with butter and salt.

Here are some examples.

  • Eat more fruit: Aim for 2+ cups daily – melons, berries, apples, bananas, oranges, papaya,
  • Eat more vegetables at meals: Aim for 2.5 cups daily.
    Eat more salads and vegetable soups.
    Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
    Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
    Eat more steamed vegetables and stir fry.
    Grill vegetable kabobs with a barbecue meal. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
  • Use whole grains most of the time: Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for ¼ or ½ of the flour in pancake, waffle, muffin, cookie, or other flour-based recipes.
    Use whole-grain bread or cracker crumbs in meatloaf.
    Try rolled oats or a crushed, unsweetened whole grain cereal as breading for baked chicken, fish, veal cutlets, or eggplant parmesan.
    Try an unsweetened, whole grain ready-to-eat cereal as croutons in salad or in place of crackers with soup.
    Snack on ready-to-eat, whole grain cereals such as toasted oat cereal.
    Try a whole-grain snack such as baked tortilla chips or hearty rye crisp.
  • Use dry beans, peas, and nuts daily: Choose dry beans as a main dish or as part of a meal.
    Some choices are:
    Chili with kidney or pinto beans
    Stir-fried tofu
    Split pea, lentil, minestrone, or white bean soups
    Baked beans
    Black bean enchiladas
    Garbanzo or kidney beans on a chef ’s salad
    Rice and beans
    Veggie burgers or garden burgers
    Hummus (chickpeas) spread on pita bread
  • Choose nuts as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes. Some ideas are:
    Sprinkle pine nuts on pesto sauce for pasta.
    Add slivered almonds to steamed vegetables.
    Add toasted peanuts or cashews to a vegetable stir fry.
    Sprinkle a few nuts on top of low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.
    Add walnuts or pecans to a green salad instead of cheese or meat.
  • Eat fish more often, especially those rich in omega-3fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, and herring.
  • Choose healthy fats:
    Choose vegetable oils (Canola, soy, olive, etc.) and trans-fat free margarine in place of butter and solid or saturated fats. Eat all fats in moderate amounts.
    Olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, and flax meal are foods that contain healthy fats.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat such as red meats, hamburgers, hot dogs, luncheon meats, bacon, fried chicken (baked, skinless poultry is preferable).
    Go easy on cheese, cream, premium ice creams, rich desserts, butter, meat gravies and sauces.

Adapted from "Building Heart Health" By Carol Ann Marlow, MPH, MS, and Don Hall, DrPH, CHES
Pearson TA et al. American Heart Association Guide for Improving Cardiovascular Health at the Community Level. Circulation. 2003;107:645.
Leon AS et al. Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease. Circulation. 2005; 111:369-376.
Excerpted and adapted from 2005 tips on vegetables, grains, meat and beans, and physical activity.