A heart healthy lifestyle starts with healthy food choices, but that’s easier said than done when your cravings for sugar, salt, and high-fat foods don’t go away. Making healthy choices for every meal every day is hard when the brownies in the breakroom are calling your name or your picky eater at home won’t eat anything other than chicken nuggets.
Turns out, you don’t have to give up flavor or limit your food choices to eat right. Healthy eating can be easy, fun, and flavorful for all. In fact, simple food swaps and small changes can go a long way in reducing your risk of heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
Ready to get heart healthy? Give these easy tips below a try – starting with dinner tonight.
1. Cook your own low-salt or salt-free meals
Less salt doesn’t have to mean less flavor. In place of salt, spice up your meals by adding basil to sauces and soups, ginger to your favorite veggies, or cinnamon to your oatmeal.
2. Swap out sugary drinks
Too much sugar isn’t sweet for your heart. Reach for a water bottle instead of a can of soda or energy drink. For an added boost of flavor, add orange slices, strawberries, mint leaves, or cucumbers to your water.
3. Eat a rainbow of colors
The best way to get the nutrients you need for a healthy heart is to load up on a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. Each day, fill half of your plate with the five main color groups:
1. Red/Pink (tomatoes, grapefruit)
2. Orange/Yellow (sweet potatoes, bananas)
3. White (onions)
4. Green (kale)
5. Blue/Purple (grapes, blueberries)
4. Focus on healthy fats
Replace some of the bad fats (saturated and trans fats) in your diet with healthier options. Cook with oils instead of butter, top your sandwich with avocado instead of cheese, and snack on nuts instead of chips or cookies.
5. Vary your lean protein routine
For a boost of protein without the fat, choose lean meats, beans, or fish each week. (Think bean burgers and fish tacos!)
Before your next snack or meal, choose a healthy and tasty food swap that will work for you and your family. Remember, changing your eating habits takes time, but the simple steps you take each day can keep your heart healthy now and later in life.
6. Make heart healthy eating a family affair
Parents, get your kids excited about healthy foods with these tips:
• More family dinners. Studies show that when families eat together, kids eat more fruits and vegetables and less fried food and soda.
• Make healthy snacking fun. Your kids can help you freeze fresh fruit for popsicles or cut healthy foods into fun shapes using cookie cutters.
• Get kids involved by shopping or cooking with them. Kids are more likely to eat healthy foods if they helped plan or prepare the meal. If your kids are too young to help with the cooking, try a make-your-own dishes night with chicken tacos or yogurt parfaits.
To learn more about healthy living, visit www.anthem.com/wisconsin. Our team of experts is always sharing new health tips, topics, and preventive care programs for our Wisconsin families. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is a community partner of Chippewa Valley Family.