Have a Heart!
By Andrea Holwegner, Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc.
Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in Canada, and it kills someone every 7 minutes. Since February is Heart Month, consider the small changes you can start making today that could impact your heart health for life!
1. Plan meals around fruits and veggies.
How often does “chicken, beef, pork or fish” steal the spotlight in your meal planning? Challenge yourself to a new mindset, where you plan meals around lovely brightly-colored peppers, fresh crispy green lettuce, or perfectly-ripe juicy tomatoes instead. We know that fruits and veggies are key players in heart health due to their abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Filling half your plate with vegetables before plating your meat and starch can be a great way to help boost vegetable intake, reduce calories and promote weight loss.
2. Eat more foods from scratch
Restaurant food, pre-packaged meals, and other highly processed foods, are almost always lower in nutrients and higher in fat, salt, sugar and calories, than whole fresh foods. Even with your best attempts at making healthier choices at restaurants, you can’t compete with home-made. While busy schedules can be a barrier, some pre-planning goes a long way. Take a few minutes to develop a few weeks worth of menus, batch-cook large portions of favorite meals on the weekends, and enlist the help of family to plan and prep meals as everyone arrives home. On days where eating out is the only option, make the best of it: fill up on colorful raw veggies as you wait for your pizza to arrive, or bring hamburgers home to eat with a fresh tossed salad and a glass of cold milk or 100% juice.
3. Shift your fat sources
Fat is an essential part of our diets, and it makes our food taste great! But too much of certain fats can be harmful to our health, especially to our hearts. Make a decision to eat less saturated fat, which is found mainly in animal sources such as meat, butter and dairy. Also steer clear of trans fats, which show up on labels as shortening, or as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils, and are often also found in pre-packaged baked goods and snacks. Instead, shift your focus to heart-healthy unsaturated fat sources, such as vegetable oils, nuts, avocado, and fish. Opt for tuna sandwiches, try some avocado as a spread, sprinkle nuts on salads, or enjoy some peanut butter at breakfast.