Heart healthy cooking starts at the grocery store. Our environment plays a key role in our food choices! We tend to eat what is convenient and what is in our presence. So, what do you think your chances of eating healthy are if your counter tops and refrigerator are full of unhealthy foods? Let's take a stroll through the grocery store and identify heart-healthy choices.
Fruits and Vegetables
Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables is a great place to start. Filling your plate with a wide array of colorful fruits and vegetables provide heart-healthy, disease fighting nutrients. All fruits and vegetables are "super-foods." Peas, beans, carrots, apples, pears, and citrus fruits are good sources of soluble fiber, which helps decreases cholesterol levels.
Buy produce that is season for best buys. Canned or frozen fruit packed without added sugar are also great choices. Limit fruit juices as they are missing the fiber and satiety whole fruit provides. Drain and rinse can vegetables to decrease sodium content or purchase low-sodium or no added salt canned vegetables. Frozen vegetables without added sauces are also good options. The important point is eat your fruits and vegetables every day!
Plan for baked or grilled fish twice a week. Include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring that provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Limit fatty meats that are high in unhealthy saturated fat. Red meat and pork labeled loin or round usually have less fat. Trim excess fats from meats. Purchase "select" or "choice" beef grades instead of "prime" which is fattier. Fresh or frozen fish, lean meat, 90% lean ground meat, and skin-less poultry, such as lean ground turkey are heart-healthy choices. Avoid high-fat ground meats, processed, salted and cured meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, and deli meats.
Meat does not have to be the centerpiece of the meal. Heart-healthy alternatives are beans, lentils, peas, and tofu.
Milk, Cheese, Eggs
Skim or 1% fat milk provide nutrients without the unhealthy fat. Cheese can be a major source of unhealthy fat and sodium, so stick with reduced fat varieties and use it sparingly. A stronger-flavored cheese can add the desired flavor in a smaller serving.
Eggs are a great source of protein along with Vitamin B12, D, folate and riboflavin. Research suggest moderate egg consumption of one egg per day does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals. Anyone with diabetes or heart disease is wise to limit egg yolk consumption to three yolks per week.
Grains, Breads and CerealsLook for products made from whole-grains such as whole wheat, oat, rye, or corn. Purchase grain products that list a whole grain as the first item on the ingredient list. Brown rice, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers supply more nutrients and fiber than the more processed versions. Bakery products like doughnuts, cakes, pies, and cookies can be a source of unhealthy fats and added sugar.
Oils, Butter, Margarine, Nuts and Seeds
Olive, canola, and peanut oil are more heart-healthy oils. Other plant-based oils like soybean, corn, and sunflower oils are also ok to use in moderation. Nuts and seeds are also heart-healthy staples for your kitchen. Soft tub or liquid margarines with 0 grams of trans- fats are healthier options than butter or lard.
Focus on filling your cart with lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and plant-based fats and oils. A well-stocked pantry makes it easy to whip up delicious heart-healthy meals. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit visible on the kitchen counter. Remember, our environment influences our food choices!
Today's post was written by Marilyn Csernus, MS, RD, CDE. She is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving Boone, DeKalb and Ogle Counties.