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5 Small Steps to Heart-Healthy Eating

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By: Karen Yontz Center Staff

The idea of switching to a heart healthy diet can be intimidating. You know you are supposed to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, foods that are low in saturated fat, added salt and added sugar, unprocessed, and on and on. Add to this the ever-changing opinions on which foods are bad for your heart and in what amounts and the idea of eating right for our heart can be overwhelming. But even the smallest changes make a big impact when it comes to your heart health. Our registered dietitian, Heather Klug, RD, CD, chose her favorite 5 small changes that can mean positive things for your heart.

  1. Don’t eat between dinner and breakfast: The ideal amount of time between your last bite of dinner and your first bite of breakfast is 12 hours. By completing this daily period of fasting, you help control your weight and can lower blood pressure and cholesterol and control diabetes. Certain groups should not do intermittent fasts of this type so be sure to check with your doctor to find out if this is a healthy option for you.
  2. Don’t drink your calories: In this instance, we are talking about drinks high in added sugars (i.e. soda, juice, and other sweetened soft drinks) and those containing alcohol. Drinks like these don’t have much, if any, nutritional value and they don’t help you feel full for long. It’s better to have water, unsweetened tea, coffee or even milk to drink and if you are looking for something sweet, to eat a piece of fruit. Speaking of which…
  3. Eat a fruit or veggie with each main meal: Slice a banana into your cereal. Have a handful of raspberries with your sandwich at lunch. Fill half of your plate with broccoli and carrots at dinner. Many people struggle to get their daily recommended portions of fruit and vegetables. By including them at each meal, you are helping yourself get all their heart-healthy fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
  4. Switch to the whole grain version of starchy staples: Do you like eating crackers as a snack? Replace your Ritz crackers with Wheat Thins or Triscuits. Love white rice as a side? Try eating brown or wild rice instead. Leave the white bread on the shelf and pick up whole wheat or 12-grain for your sandwiches. Whole grains are packed with cholesterol-busting fiber and keep you full longer.
  5. Swap olive oil for butter: Whether you’re roasting vegetables, sautéing seafood, or pan-frying eggs, leave the butter behind and substitute a tablespoon of olive oil. Olive oil helps lower blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and reduces inflammation. Plus, it’s light flavor won’t overpower even the most delicate dishes.

Try one, two or all five of these steps to give yourself a leg up on a heart-healthy diet. To learn more about what you can eat to help with any heart disease risk factors you may have, visit The Karen Yontz Center today.

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