SPRINGFIELD – Although heart disease and stroke account for the vast majority of deaths each year in America, you can do things to lessen your risk by eating healthier. Healthy food habits can help you reduce three risk factors – high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess body weight.
The American Heart Association wants you to know that making healthier choices in your daily life is easier than you think. Here are a few ways you can begin to live a healthier life.
Use up at least as many calories as you take in.
Start by knowing how many calories you should be, or not be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. If you need to burn excess calories, the American Heart Association recommends you walk or do other physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most or all days. Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups.
You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients and are lower in calories. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often.
• Vegetables and fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber-and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.
• Unrefined whole-grain foods contain fiber that can help lower your blood cholesterol and help you feel full, which may help you manage your weight.
• Eat fish at least twice a week. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout, and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.
Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods.
You could use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you probably wouldn’t get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients, and limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Read labels carefully – the Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how much of those nutrients each food or beverage contains. As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these recommendations.
• Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
• Select fat-free, 1 percent fat, and low-fat dairy products.
• Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
• Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
• Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
• Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
• If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.
• Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out, and keep an eye on your portion sizes. Go to www.heart.org/gettinghealthy for tips on dining out.
Following this eating plan will help you enjoy a healthy, nutritious diet. Every meal doesn’t have to meet all the guidelines but try to apply the guidelines to your overall eating pattern several days a week. Here is a delicious heart healthy recipe from the American Heart Association American Stroke Association that you can happily include in your meal plan.
Grilled Chicken with Strawberry and Pineapple Salsa
Serves 4; 3 ounces chicken and 1/2 cup salsa per serving
Grilled pineapple and fresh mint and strawberries combine with tangy lemon and a bit of hot pepper flakes to make an interesting salsa for grilled chicken.
1 teaspoon canola or corn oil
2 slices fresh pineapple, each 1/2 inch thick, patted dry
1 cup whole strawberries (about 5 ounces), diced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium lemon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each), all visible fat discarded
2 teaspoons salt-free steak seasoning blend
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the grill on medium high. Brush a grill pan or grill rack with the oil. Heat the grill pan or rack on the grill for about 2 minutes, or until hot. Grill the pineapple for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly, about two minutes, before chopping.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the remaining salsa ingredients except the lemon. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon zest, reserving the lemon. Stir the zest and chopped pineapple into the strawberry mixture. Set aside.
Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the seasoning blend and salt. Grill for 5 minutes on each side, or until no longer pink in the center. Transfer to plates. Squeeze the reserved lemon over the chicken. Serve with the salsa on the side.
Nutrition analysis (per serving): calories, 191; total fat, 3.0 grams; saturated fat, 0.5 grams; trans fat, 0 grams; polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams; monounsaturated fat, 1 gram; Cholesterol, 66 miligrams; sodium, 223 miligrams; carbohydrates, 14 grams; fiber 2 grams; sugars, 10 grams; protein, 27 grams.
Dietary Exchanges: 1 fruit, 3 very lean meat
This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association’s Face the Fats campaign. Recipe copyright 2009 by the American Heart Association. Look for other delicious recipes in American Heart Association cookbooks, available from booksellers everywhere, and at deliciousdecisions.org