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Heart Healthy & Deliciously Doable: A Sample Heart Healthy Meal Plan

February marks American Heart Month, a time for us to pause to check in with the health of our hearts.  

Did you know?  By eating healthier foods, you may be able to lower your risk of developing heart disease and improve the health of your heart.

That’s because heart health heroes like potassium, magnesium, omega-3s, and fiber can support the health of your heart. On the other hand, added sugar, trans fats, and excessive sodium may be harmful to your heart health.  Knowing where these nutrients are found and how to get (or avoid!) them is important, so check out the sample meal plan below to learn about how deliciously doable it is to eat heart healthy.  

Choose This:

Berry Breakfast Bowl: Top ½ cup of rolled oats, cooked in water, with 28 peanuts (1 ounce) and ½ cup of blueberries.  Sprinkle with cinnamon or ground ginger, to taste. 

Why? 

This easy-to-make breakfast packs in 9 grams of fiber.  Since fiber may help reduce cholesterol, help you feel fuller longer, and may help you achieve a lean body weight, it is recommended that women get at least 25 grams of fiber per day and men at least 38 grams of fiber per day.  In fact, research has demonstrated that those who have diets high in fiber have a lower incidence of heart disease!  

Even better?  This combo can be adjusted daily so if you want to change up your oatmeal, you can choose quinoa or brown rice.  Or if you prefer almonds instead of peanuts, or raspberries in place of blueberries, go ahead and make the swaps!

Choose This: 

Sweet Potato Toast with Bananas: Cut a sweet potato into four slices.  Toast two of the slices in the toaster until the edges are golden brown and the insides are tender.  Top each slice with 1 tablespoon of almond butter and ¼ of a sliced banana.  Save the remaining sweet potato and banana for your snack tomorrow!

Why?
Delivering 640 milligrams of potassium (about 15% of your daily needs), this snack fits the bill for healthy AND yummy!  Potassium functions in the body as sodium’s opposite; it helps maintain a healthy fluid balance, blood pressure, and it helps the heart beat at a normal rhythm. 

Besides sweet potatoes and bananas, other potassium rich foods include oranges, avocado, apricots, potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, beans, and lentils.

Choose This: 

Strawberry Salmon Salad: To 3 cups of leafy green vegetables like kale, BroccoLeaf, or green chard, add 3 ounces of baked wild salmon, 1 cup of sliced strawberries, your other favorite vegetables, and drizzle with a dressing made from 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and fresh lemon juice. 

Why?

Omega-3s, found in foods like salmon, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, flax, hemp seeds, and chia, help reduce inappropriate inflammation and may help decrease blood triglycerides.  In fact, when people eat more omega-3s, they tend to see a decrease in heart disease risk! 

Plus, strawberries offer another reason to fall in love with this meal. Discover why, here!

Choose This: 

Fruit & Nut Packable Combo: Pull that pear (or apple!) from your purse or backpack and combine it with 2 tablespoons of heart-healthy walnuts. 

Why?

Combining fresh fruit and a handful of nuts or seeds delivers a healthy balance of fiber-rich carbohydrates, healthy proteins, and healthy fats.  The bigger picture here, though, is what this snack doesn’t offer…trans fats.  Found in foods with “partially hydrogenated” oils – like in some cake and cookie mixes, doughnuts, prepared frosting, and biscuits – trans fats can raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower your “good” HDL cholesterol. Thankfully, however, the FDA has taken steps to remove artificial trans fats in processed foods so that they are less likely to be sneaking around in your snacks.  

Choose This: 

Greens Burrito: combine ½ cup of black beans, ½ cup corn, ¼ cup chopped tomatoes, 1/8 of a chopped onion, 1/3 of an avocado, diced green chiles, and a sprinkle of cumin and pepper (to taste).  Distribute the mixture evenly among 4-5 large BroccoLeafs or collard greens.  Wrap and enjoy as a burrito.  Dip into salsa for extra flavor. 
  
Why?

Compared many traditional frozen burritos, this homemade version wrapped in greens is low in sodium.  This is helpful for us as we know that when we have too much sodium in our diets, we are at greater risk for high blood pressure.  Plus, beans and greens are full of magnesium, which may help lower blood pressure and total cholesterol.  

Choose This: 

Dark-Chocolate Covered Oranges: Peel 1 orange and break it into its individual segments.  Dip one end of each orange segment into 1 ounce of dark chocolate, melted, and set on parchment paper to harden.  Cool in the refrigerator and, when set, enjoy as a special treat. 

Why?

We all want a little sweet treat in our lives every now and then!  But, research has demonstrated that too much added sugar has the potential to raise the risk for heart disease.  Thankfully, by using fruit for sweetness instead of added sugar, we can get the sweet fix we are looking for. 

Dark chocolate does indeed include added sugar, but the amount in this respectful one-ounce portion falls way below the Dietary Guideline’s recommendations to have no more than 10% of total daily calories sourced from added sugar.


In the end, choosing more vegetables and fruits, and focusing on foods that offer a healthy amount of potassium, magnesium, fiber, and omega-3s, can help support a healthy heart.  It’s also important to remember that factors beyond your diet can help your heart – like getting ample sleep, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and exercising often. 

Feeling like you are heart smart?  Share your #HeartSmartDiet photos and recipes with us for #HeartMonth!  Make sure to tag @FoxyProduce for a chance to be featured on our page!  

Do you have #HeartSmartDiet questions?  Ask our Registered Dietitian Tori Schmitt, MS, RDN, LD at YES! Nutrition.

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