Ready to look beyond the old, cliche tips for heart-healthy eating to prevent heart disease? Looking for nutrition tips that make sense in the real world? If you’re trying to eat a little better in the midst of a frenetic schedule, we’ve got 10 easy tips to make heart-healthy nutrition brainlessly simple.
1. Rethink your drink. While many consumers consider wine and other alcoholic beverages to be heart-healthy, alcohol is only considered healthy in moderation, and only for certain populations. In general, abstaining is a far healthier choice.
If you do plan to drink, be sure that you’re consuming no more than 7 drinks each week. One drink equals 5 oz wine, 12 oz beer, or 1.5 oz hard alcohol.
2. Hydrate healthfully. Take a look at the nutritional label on the side of your favorite beverage: if it doesn’t read 0 Calories, you should probably ditch it. Even beverages without added sugar (such as no sugar added fruit and vegetable juices) can cause large fluctuations in blood sugar.
Over time, this can increase your risk for Type II Diabetes and atherosclerosis, the latter of which occurs when fluctuating blood sugar damages blood vessels.
3. Know your needs. Nutritional needs are very individual, but the average, active adult needs no more than 2,000 Calories each day. Any more than that and you ay be at risk for unnecessary weight gain, which increases the risk for Type II Diabetes and heart disease.
Additionally, pay attention to sugar, salt, fat, and saturated fat to prevent heart disease. The average adult needs no more than 24g sugar, 2300 mg sodium, 60g fat, and 22g saturated fat.
4. Read labels.The only way to know for sure if you’re consuming within the ballpark of your needs is to become nutrition-aware, and that begins with reading nutrition labels!
5. Snack smarter. Skip packaged snack foods in favor of fresh fruits and veggies for snacks.
While these snacks may seem unappealing compared to salty and sweet snack foods, setting strict snack parameters can help you evaluate whether you’re really hungry, or whether you’re just eating out of boredom. Additionally, cutting out packaged snacks reduces your consumption of Calories, fat, sugar, and salt.
6. Look out for trans fats. Trans fats increase bad LDL cholesterol and reduce good HDL cholesterol, setting the stage for heart disease. Trans fats are typically found in packaged food products, desserts, and baked goods. If you see the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” listed on an ingredient statement, that means that trans fats are present in the product.
7. Stick with the entree. Appetizers, desserts, and drinks all add on to the amount of Calories, fat, sugar, and salt consumed while eating outside of the home. Restaurant foods are very high in all of these categories, which can make eating healthfully away from home difficult. When dining out, stick with an entree, save for special occasions to help prevent heart disease.
8. Limit the sweet stuff. Sugar in all forms is incredibly detrimental to weight and health outcomes. Limit sugar, including sweet beverages, desserts and snack products, honey, agave, coconut sugar, or any other Caloric sweetener.
9. Go green! Vegetables are by far the most under consumed food group. Aim to increase your consumption of green, non starchy vegetables by including them in at least two meals a day. Doing so increases your consumption of fiber and beneficial micronutrients, and helps aid satiety, which can prevent any unnecessary snacking that may otherwise cause weight gain.
10. “Sea” food differently. Aim to increase your consumption of fish and seafood by consuming more fresh and canned fish and shellfish to prevent heart diease. Seafood products are low in saturated fat and high in heart-healthy Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).