When it comes to eating healthy, every bite counts. What if those bites were of natural, unprocessed food? If that sounds good, the heart-healthy diet might be for you.
The basic idea is to reduce or eliminate foods high in saturated fat, salt, and processed sugar. A whole foods diet is naturally tasty and easy on your ticker, even potentially helping lower high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
What to Eat
Try adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals. What could be less processed than that? If possible, skip the "white" carbs (think bleached flour and white rice), and opt for whole grains as they tend to be higher in fiber and nutrients.
Omega-3: The Good Fat
Yes, there are good fats and bad fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are good--and you can find them in foods like fish and nuts. They have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and are friendly on those cholesterol levels. Plus, they're really simple to swap out for snacks and meals. There are several quick and easy ways to add them into your diet:
- Snack on pecans instead of chips
- Trade the steak at dinnertime for a salmon filet
- Sprinkle ground flax seeds into your cereal
Getting Ahead Equals Getting Healthy
Processed foods might be convenient, but cutting back on them can be healthier for your heart--and for all of you. Here are some tips:
- Plan ahead: Setting aside time to plan your meals makes it easier to avoid the drive-through. Like to snack? Try packing some nuts or fresh fruit to curb those cravings.
- Try a two-week challenge: Go without sugar and refined "white" carbs for two weeks. Many people report that they have fewer cravings as time goes on.
- Reduce salt intake: Eating a lot of salty foods (not just chips, but canned soup and some frozen meals) can increase your craving for more salty foods. Canned soups, frozen meals, and fast foods can be surprisingly high in sodium. Remember serving sizes when reading labels, and see if you can opt for a low-sodium version.
Don't Say "Diet"
Eating heart-healthy options doesn't have to feel like deprivation. Think of it as adding food to your diet, rather than taking away. With dishes like grilled salmon, homemade hummus, fresh and dense salads, and refreshing soups and desserts, you can serve amazing meals everyone in your family will love. And that makes for a happy and healthy heart.