According to the American Heart Association, good nutrition is essential for your family’s heart health.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease. Whether you are preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner, make each meal count towards a healthier you.
I splurged and ate my way through the holidays, junked out during the Super Bowl and, on Valentine’s Day, consumed more chocolate than I should have. Unfortunately, I have not upheld my New Year’s resolutions for eating better and exercising more. Now it is time to get back on a healthy track.
Preparing homemade meals allows you more control over the nutritional content of the foods your family eats.
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Fast food seems to be an easier way to feed everyone when you are in a hurry and don’t have the time to buy, cook or plan a meal.
This is where a few short-cut strategies and heart-smart tips come into play.
I use pre-washed, precut fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen veggies and fruits have as many, if not more, nutrients than fresh because they are frozen shortly after picking, when their nutrient content is at its highest. These convenient veggies cook up fast in the microwave — all you have to do is heat and eat.
Think in color. Serve fruits or veggies in contrasting colors: red peppers with broccoli, blueberries with peaches, or carrots and peas. Deep-colored produce have higher amounts of nutrients.
Stock your pantry and refrigerator with heart-healthy quick-cooking staples such as whole-wheat pastas, nuts, canned beans and tuna, whole-grain breads, eggs, which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids; and reduced fat/low sodium cheeses. Bagged salads are another great convenience item. By keeping these items on hand, you will be able to whip up a fast, flavorful meal at the drop of a hat.
Salmon is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and is a good heart-healthy food. I substitute ground turkey and chicken for beef in many of my recipes.
Healthy meal ideas
Rinse bagged spinach, arrange it on a plate and top it with nuts, sliced carrots and cherry tomatoes. Add strips of cooked chicken breast and dress the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Cook whole-wheat spaghetti and then toss it with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and rinsed, heated canned white cannellini beans, or toss the spaghetti and beans with a spoonful or two of jarred pesto. Serve steamed broccoli and fresh/frozen or canned fruit on the side.
Garnish fruit salads, green salads and cooked veggies with chopped nuts. Toss a handful of nuts into muffin and pancake recipes or add some to yogurt. For extra flavor, first toast the nuts in a 350-degree oven until golden, 5 to 10 minutes.
For a quick baked apple snack, core an apple, pack the center with raisins and walnuts, and dust with cinnamon. Place it in a bowl with 1/4 cup of orange juice, apple juice or water, and microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until done.
A quick and easy way to spot heart-healthy foods in the supermarket is to look for foods displaying the American Heart Association’s heart-check mark on the food packaging. You can also go to the Web site at www.americanheart.org and click on “Nutrition Center” for heart-healthy tips on shopping and cooking. Learning how to read and understand food labels can help you make healthier choices. You can prepare a healthy meal just as quickly as an unhealthy one. It is just a matter of planning, having the right foods on hand, and learning how to prepare quick, healthy meals.