| By Jamie Stolarz |
When we think of February, we think of Valentine’s Day, a time to celebrate love, share valentines, indulge in a few sweets, and get out those heart decorations.
But did you know the heart theme continues through the month with a strong health message?
February is American Heart Month. Why should we celebrate? Because your heart works for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s the vital organ that keeps you going. So, what can you do to celebrate, honor and pamper your heart’s health this month and all year long?
Here are a few heart-healthy nutrition tips:
- Enjoy more foods with soluble fiber, the amazing fiber that can help maintain good cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in some whole grains, vegetables and fruits — especially legumes (beans, peas, lentils), barley, oats, nuts and seeds.
- Use heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocado, guacamole and salmon.
- Avoid foods with trans fats by avoiding fried foods and foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
- Cut the salt by dining in more and reading the Nutrition Facts label to find lower sodium options; amp up the flavor by reaching for herbs and spices instead of the salt shaker.
Ready to put these tips into action?
Try these 10 simple combinations for a heart-smart meal or snack:
- Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal in the morning with ground cinnamon and diced pears.
- Get out that Instapot, slow cooker or stovetop pot and enjoy a bean-and-ground-turkey-breast chili.
- Roast vegetables, such as potatoes in olive oil with herbs, such as oregano, for a delicious caramelized flavor (they’re a great substitution for fried foods).
- Enjoy natural peanut butter on an apple for an easy snack.
- Grab a 100-calorie guacamole cup and a snack-sized bag of baby carrots for a tasty, colorful treat.
- Pan-cook salmon on the stove top in its own healthy fats.
- Make a salad with pumpkin seeds and quinoa.
- For that sweet tooth, bake oatmeal cookies with walnuts and dark chocolate chips, and use a buttery spread instead of butter.
- Dip strawberries in a little dark chocolate for a treat.
- Try a small handful of trail mix with peanuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips for a sweet and savory snack.
And don’t forget: See your doctor for annual cholesterol screenings and wellness check-ups; exercise; and avoid tobacco use and exposure.
Have a lovely, healthy month!
Jamie Stolarz, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE, is a registered dietitian, a lifelong cook and a frequent gym-goer. She’s also a proud dog mom and is currently planning her wedding.