With February being focused on heart health, we wanted to take this opportunity to share some heart healthy recipes and suggestions for your nutrition that could be helpful every month of the year. With that said, this timely article comes during National Nutrition Month! So let’s dive into some of the most essential aspects of heart healthy nutrition and how you can effectively implement those into your lifestyle. As always, with any suggestions related to your health, diet and nutrition, be sure to consult with your primary care physician before implementing changes into your lifestyle.

Monitor your portion sizes. Eating the right foods is important, but the amount you consume is important as well. Overeating (or not eating enough) can have a significant impact on your health. Some basic things to remember:

  • Don’t be afraid to use measuring cups, food scales or smaller plates/bowls to help adequately measure your portions.
  • Servings and serving sizes may vary depending on the diet or guidelines you are following.
  • Serving sizes may be marked on food containers, but check to see how many servings are included in a container as to not overindulge.

Add natural fruits and vegetables to your diet. It’s more than just adding fruits and vegetables to your diet, it’s about how they’re packaged and prepared that could make all the difference. We know that it can be more cost prohibitive to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, making frozen and canned options more reasonable. If you’re going to purchase canned vegetables, look for low-sodium options and for canned fruits, avoid the ones packaged in heavy syrups. Fruit in water or even juice is more preferable from a dietary standpoint.

Reduce your sodium intake. Limiting the table salt you add to your foods while cooking and eating is a great first step, but there is such a significant amount of salt that comes from canned or processed foods. Trying to limit frozen, canned and processed foods can help drastically reduce the amount of salt you eat. As mentioned above, though, these types of foods and meals can be more cost effective and convenient than buying fresh. If you find that you need to purchase these options, try to choose those with no added salt or reduced sodium.

Add more whole grains in place of refined grains. Making this switch can help add fiber and other nutrients that help to regulate blood pressure and overall good heart health. Some simple ways to add whole grains to your diet include:

  • Whole grain pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Whole grains like brown rice or barley

Limit unhealthy fats. It’s as simple as using less butter, margarine or shortening when cooking or substituting avocado on your toast over butter. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended to limit saturated fat to less than 10% of your total daily calorie intake. As described by the Mayo Clinic, saturated fats come mainly from animal sources of foods like red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fats can raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL - “good”) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL- “bad”) cholesterol levels, which may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Look for opportunities to implement healthier unsaturated fats into your diet by trying the following substitutions:

  • oil instead of butter
  • fish (like salmon) instead of meat at least twice a week
  • bake instead of fry your meat
  • lean meat and skinless poultry 

Additionally, if you love to cook or bake, here are some great heart-healthy ingredient substitutions for some of the everyday items you may add in to your recipes. Need some new recipes to try? Who said eating healthy has to be bland or boring? We found a list of 87 heart-healthy recipes that you can try for dinner that will surely satisfy your taste buds and your heart. Give one a try and let us know what you think!

For specific guidance and recommendations on the best decisions for your personal dietary needs, consult with your physician. If you haven’t met with your physician yet this year, or haven’t scheduled an annual check-up, feel free to hop over to our patient portal and schedule one now. There is never a bad time to meet with your physician to discuss concerns or questions you have about your healthcare needs.