A Healthy Kitchen Makeover

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Tackling neglected cleaning tasks? Cleaning out the attic or reorganizing your bedroom might top your list. But don’t neglect the heart of your own — give your kitchen a makeover by stocking it with great-tasting, healthy choices.

First, take a peek inside your refrigerator and pantry. Look at the expiration or “best used by” dates on food packages.

Foods kept past their expiration dates can degrade in quality, and items such as butter and oils can go bad.

What to Stock Up On

Diets rich in high-fiber whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Whole Grains. Whole grains have essential vitamins and dietary fiber. Whole-grain foods high in fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, rice and barley. How do you know if you’re getting what you need? Check the label. Whole grain should be the first ingredient.

Fruits and Vegetables. Low in calories and full of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, fruits and veggies are nutritious, filling foods. Whether they’re fresh, frozen, canned or dried, they’re a delicious must-have for your diet.

Leaner Is Better. Making lean choices will help you maintain a heart-healthy diet. Consider skinless chicken and turkey, fish, shellfish and lean cuts of beef such as round, sirloin, chuck and loin. Beans and soy products such as tofu are good meat substitutes.

Healthier Fats. Fats play an important role in your diet, but it’s important to choose the right kinds. Choose oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as canola oil or olive oil, and use soft margarines with no trans fats. Try to steer clear of saturated and trans fats, which are often found in mayonnaise, chips, cookies, packaged muffins, snack cakes and crackers.

Salt. Most of the sodium (salt) in our diet comes from prepared food. Eating too much salt increases your risk of developing high blood pressure (a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke) and raises it in those who have it. When buying prepared and prepackaged foods, be sure and read the labels first. Watch for the words “soda” and “sodium” in the ingredient statement and look for the symbol “Na” on labels. Choose lower sodium products. Aim for less than 2300 mg of sodium a day — that’s about one teaspoon of table salt.

To find heart-healthy foods in the grocery store, start by making your grocery list online. Visit heartcheckmark.org to build your list from approximately 800 products ranging from meat and dairy to vegetables and snacks, all certified by the American Heart Association to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Print your list or access it from your Web-enabled mobile phone or PDA.

For more nutrition information, visit americanheart.org/nutrition.

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