Foods that are good for our heart health are good for our overall health. A heart-healthy diet can help prevent or manage conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Ashley Kim, a registered dietitian with the Get Up & Go program at Children's Health℠, explains what to watch for and shares heart-healthy recipes.
Know the facts about fats, fiber and salt
"Fats are important to our diet, but we want to make sure we are consuming the right types of fats," Ashley says. Different types of fats have drastically different effects on your heart.
- Trans-fats are man-made and are found in packaged products.
- Saturated fats come from animal products such as meat, poultry, butter and other high-fat dairy products like milk and cheese that are made with whole milk. A special note for young children: Whole milk is best for those between ages 1-2, unless the child is at risk for obesity.
- Omega-3s are the fats you want to seek out, because they are essential to heart health. Omega-3s can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL) among many other health benefits. Fish, walnuts and flax seeds are three foods that can help you meet your omega-3 needs. Fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, trout, halibut and mackerel have the highest levels of omega-3s.
Fiber which comes from grains, fruits and vegetables, has been shown to lower bad cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Choosing more whole grains and shooting for five fruits and vegetables a day can help you take advantage of fiber's benefits. "Use the nutrition facts to help you choose high fiber foods,” Ashley explains. “Look for foods that have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving."
Watching your family's salt intake is also important. A lot of people believe not adding extra salt to their food makes them safe from consuming too much. However, processed and restaurant foods account for more than 70% of the salt in American's diets. Reading labels and seeking out restaurant menu information is critical for cutting your salt intake.
Including more heart-healthy foods in your family's meals may be easier than you think. Here are recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner with heart-healthy ingredients that you can try at home.
Breakfast: Blueberry, cinnamon and walnut oatmeal
Oatmeal is a great choice because it contains soluble fiber which is the best for lowering your cholesterol. You can also find soluble fiber in apples, pears and lentils.
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup non-fat milk
- ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
- 2 teaspoons honey
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- (Optional) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread oats on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.
- Bring water and milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Stir in toasted oats. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 20 minutes or until oatmeal is soft and creamy, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup blueberries, walnuts, honey and cinnamon.
- Spoon oatmeal into serving bowls and top with remaining blueberries.
Adapted from Driscolls.com.
Lunch: Tuna grape salad
This recipe combines the sweetness of the grapes, the healthy oils of the tuna, low-fat yogurt and more. Canned fish is an easy and affordable way to get more Omega-3's. Salmon is the fish you hear about the most, but tuna is a good source as well. When you're shopping for tuna, look for albacore canned in water.
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon dill
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- One 12-ounce can solid white albacore tuna in water, drained and flaked
- 1 cup halved red seedless grapes
- 3 tablespoons finely diced celery
- 4 cups mixed greens
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper until evenly combined.
- Gently stir in the tuna, grapes and celery.
- Scatter the mixed greens on a large serving platter and top it off with the tuna grape salad.
- Serve with whole grain crackers or on a bed of lettuce.
Adapted from pbs.org
Dinner: Homemade pizza
According to the Centers for Disease Control, pizza is the number one source of salt in children's diets! Making pizza at home is a fun way to get your family involved in dinner and cut the amount of salt you eat in half.
- 1-1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1-1/2 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose white flour
- 3 ounces low-sodium tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup onion
- 1/4 cup green bell pepper
- 1/2 pound lean ground beef
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, sugar and flour to make dough. Place in a greased bowl, cover and set aside.
- Combine tomato paste, 1/2 cup water, garlic powder, Italian seasonings and remaining oil in a small saucepan and simmer 5 minutes.
- Chop onion and bell pepper.
- Brown meat with black and red pepper in a skillet. Drain off fat. Add onion and green pepper and sauté until soft, 3–5 minutes.
- Grease a 17" x 14" baking sheet or pizza pan. Press dough onto sheet. Spread sauce, meat mixture and cheese over dough. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until dough and cheese are golden brown.
- Cut into 12 servings.
Adapted from Davita.com
Want more healthy recipes? Download our 10 Easy and Healthy Weeknight Suppers Your Kids Will Love.
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