The start of a new year brings an opportunity to improve your health through lifestyle changes such as better nutrition and exercise. The benefits of these lifestyle changes include promotion of overall wellness and prevention of disease including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and cancer (Colon, Oral, Breast).
To help you achieve your health goals in the New Year, I have compiled some tips on heart healthy eating and recommendations for exercise.
Principles of Healthful Eating
♥ Protein- limit red meat to 2 times per month, choose lean cuts and trim visible fat before eating; poultry- choose breast meat and remove skin before eating; fish- enjoy at least twice a week (fatty fish- salmon); eggs- enjoy 2-3 times a week; no restriction on egg whites.
♥ Calcium-Rich Foods-enjoy 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy and/or fortified substitutes such as soy milk. Remember that dark leafy greens like spinach, collards and turnip greens are also rich in calcium.
Plant-Based Whole Foods
♥Vegetables- choose a brightly colored variety, which is packed with fiber and heart protective phytochemicals. Aim for 3-5 servings/day (1 serving = ½ cup cooked/1 cup raw).
♥ Fruit- choose a colorful variety. Enjoy at breakfast and in between meals as snacks. Aim for 3-4 servings daily (no added sugar) e.g. ¾ cup of blackberries, small pear or a whole orange.
♥ Whole Grains- replace refined grains (white bread/pasta) with fiber rich whole grains such as 100% whole wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, or brown rice. For heart health include whole grains at breakfast like oatmeal or cereal made with oat bran, barley or psyllium.
♥ Dried beans, peas, legumes- enjoy these high fiber, high protein foods at least twice per week. Go meatless and replace a portion of meat or poultry with a ½ cup of beans.
Follow these Tips for Healthy Eating daily:
♥ Limit Sodium-avoid the salt shaker and use sodium-free herbs, spices & vegetable powders to season food. Limit main meals to less than 600 mg of sodium and snacks to 140 mg.
♥ Enjoy Heart Healthy Fats Moderately- have 1 ounce of unsalted nuts 4-5 times a week. 1 ounce equals 22 almonds, 14 walnut halves or ¼ cup of any nuts/seeds.
♥ Limit Saturated and Trans Fats-replace bad fats such as butter, stick margarine, and vegetable shortening with plant oils and trans-fat free plant oil based spreads like Smart Balance™.
Limit Excess Calories
♥Avoid fried foods; choose baked, grilled, broiled or steamed.
♥Avoid sugared beverages (regular soda, sweet tea, etc.); enjoy calorie-free/low-calorie beverages, e.g. water, unsweetened tea and have fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.
♥ Practice portion control with sweet treats (baked goods, candies, desserts); limit to 1-2 times per week.
♥ Enjoy alcohol in moderation; for example, women should limit their alcohol intake to 1 drink per day, and men to 2 drinks per day.
Promote Cardiovascular Health & Burn Excess Calories
♥ Regular physical activity is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy body weight; it also promotes good (HDL) cholesterol and lowers elevated triglycerides (fat in blood) and controls elevated blood pressure and blood sugar.
♥ The latest physical activity guidelines for Americans suggest that you engage in at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. This may consist of 30-40 minutes of moderate intensity walking/jogging, swimming, cycling, etc., 4-5 times per week.
Following all of these recommended practices will bring you closer to your health goals of obtaining or maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding heart disease and other related conditions. These tips will not only ward off heart disease, they’ll provide you with a noticeable energy boost and improve your overall mood.
Do you have questions regarding any of these heart healthy tips, or any suggestions of your own? If so, please feel free to let me know in the comments.
About: Cheryl Williams is a registered dietitian specializing in the nutritional management of a variety of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. In her current position at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center Cheryl provides nutrition therapy, wellness coaching, monthly nutrition seminars and healthy cooking demonstrations.