Apr 9, 2020
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Your Guide to Heart Healthy Food Choices

February has been proclaimed as National Heart Month to educate and raise awareness of heart disease. About 35 percent of the population has some form of heart disease and this life threatening condition is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle is beneficial in the prevention and treatment of heart disease. It has been determined that a “heart healthy” diet consists of limiting foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar, while increasing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy products. This information is very beneficial for heart health, but you may be asking yourself “how do I put this knowledge to use while in the grocery store?”

To help guide you, here are some heart healthy grocery shopping tips from The American Heart Association:

  • Take the time to plan and make a list of heart healthy meal ideas for the week.
  • Fruits and Vegetables:
    • Choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables; go for ones that are in season to ensure best taste and price. If fresh produce isn’t available, look for those either frozen or canned in water or own juices and, for vegetables, no added salt. Avoid those with labels that say “heavy syrup”, “cream”, or “sauce” as these are higher in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar.
    • Limit fruit juices as these are generally high in sugar and do not have as much fiber as whole fruits and vegetables to satisfy hunger.
  • Breads,  Cereals, and Dry Goods:
    • Choose whole-grain, high-fiber breads and cereals.  Avoid cereals that are high in sugar, as these options do not satisfy hunger and will leave you wanting more soon after eating them.
    • Instead of packing your cart full of sweets like candy, cookies, pies, and doughnuts, go for fat-free or low-fat and low-sodium varieties of crackers, snack chips, cookies and cakes, or buy ingredients to bake your own using a heart healthy recipe!
    • Sodium is often used as a preservative in canned and boxed foods, so limit canned soups, frozen convenience foods, TV dinners, and pre-prepared pasta and rice mixes unless it is a “no salt added” version.
  • Meats, Poultry, Fish, and Nuts
    • Choose lean cuts of meat –“loin, “round”, “choice”, “select”, “breast” are terms to look for when buying meats. Don’t forget to trim any visible fat before cooking.
    • As part of a heart healthy diet, it is recommended to consume fish twice per week. Try grilling or baking salmon, trout, or herring.
    • Try meat substitutes such as dried beans, peas, lentils, or tofu, and use them as entrees or in salads and soups.
    • Choose nuts and seeds, which are good sources of protein and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. However, these can be high in calories and also sodium, so consume in moderation.
  • Milk, Eggs, Cheese, and Butter
    • Buy fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk, and avoid milks that contain added flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, as they are higher in calories and sugar.
    • Monitor the amount of cheese you consume. Choose fat-free, low-fat, or reduced-fat varieties.
    • Try egg substitutes or substitute two egg whites for one whole egg when cooking.
    • Choose soft margarines that contain “0 grams trans fat” instead of buying butter.
    • Limit the amount of butter and cream you buy. These foods have more saturated fat than whole milk, so save them for recipes used on special occasions.
  • Oils, Dressings, Shortenings, and Seasonings:
    • Choose oils low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol such as canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. Avoid palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter, as they are high in saturated fats.
    • Use nonstick cooking spray rather than butter or oil for cooking if you don’t have a nonstick pan.
    • Choose reduced-fat, low-fat, light, or fat-free salad dressings for use on salads, or as dips or marinades.
    • Limit high sodium condiments and sauces:
      • Mustard, Ketchup, Salad Dressings, Bouillon cubes or granules
      • Worcestershire, BBQ, Pizza, Chili, Steak, or Soy sauces
      • Meat tenderizer, Monosodium Glutamate
    • Avoid seasonings that have “salt” in the name or on the label like garlic salt, celery salt, and onion salt; however, it is okay to have garlic or onion powder or flakes.