Healthy Nutrition Tips and Tidbits

By: Jean C. Cheney, MS, RD, LD, PVN Dietitian

February 2015, Issue 398

February is heart month. Some eighty-one million people in the United States—about 35 percent of the population—have some form of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommendations include a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stress. You should try for at least thirty minutes of moderate activity most days. You can start with ten minutes and work your way up. If thirty minutes is too much at one time, you can do ten minutes at a time.

What is a heart-healthy diet? Maintain a balance be-tween the number of calories you eat and the number you use through exercise and daily activities. There’s no magic to weight loss. It’s simply that calories in should be less than calories burned. Make your calories count by limiting the empty-calorie foods such as sweetened beverages and other foods that are primarily sugar with little nutrient content. Remember, portion sizes do count. When possible, you should also ask that the sauces, gravies and salad dressings be served on the side so you control the portions.

Your diet does not have to be complicated. Try the following simple steps to improve your eating habits.

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Your goal should be for half of your plate to be fruits or vegetables or both. Eat a rainbow of colors.
  2. Eat whole grains. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. Look for the word “whole” on the labels. “Multigrain” means there is more than one grain, but it does not mean that any of them are “whole” grains.
  3. Eat fish twice a week. The fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines are highest in omega three fatty acids.
  4. Eat more low-fat foods. Make your dairy products (three servings a day) low or nonfat. Limit foods that are high in saturated fats or trans-fats such as fried foods or prepackaged prepared foods. Use vegetable oils such as olive oil or canola oil rather than solid fats.
  5. Limit your total fat intake of all sources, but you do need some fat to make sure you get your essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.
  6. Use lean cuts of meat with visible fat trimmed before cooking. Dried beans or peas, nuts, seeds, and soy, as well as peanut butter are also good protein sources. Eggs are the very best source of protein, and although they do contain cholesterol you don’t need to eliminate them from your diet.
  7. Limit your use of salt. Limit the obviously high-salt foods such as bacon, sausage, ham, cheese, and foods with visible salt, and do not add salt at the table. Use seasonings without the word “salt,” such as garlic powder, not garlic salt.