February is known as “Heart Month”. Yes, for some of us that means we give cards with hearts on them, or buy treats or gifts for those who are special to us on Valentine’s Day. However, February is known as Heart Month to raise awareness about heart disease. This includes how to reduce your risk of getting heart disease, knowing the symptoms of heart disease and how to manage living with it. Heart disease includes high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

Here are a few heart-healthy eating and living tips. You may want to choose 1 or 2 from the list that you aren’t consistently doing right now and work to make them a usual habit.

To use less salt:

– Prepare your own meals often, using little or no salt (sodium).

– Use sodium reduced or lower sodium versions of soy sauce, ketchup, soups, crackers, frozen meals or pre-prepared meals and canned fish.

– Taste your food before adding salt. Flavour food with herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, onion, vinegar and lemon and lime juice.

– Rinse canned veggies, fish, beans, peas and lentils under cold water to wash away some of the sodium.

To get more fibre:

  • Use brown rice, wild rice or whole grain pasta more often to replace white rice or pasta
  • Toss a handful of barley or wild rice into vegetable soup
  • Eat fresh, canned or frozen fruit for dessert instead of other treats like cookies.
  • Leave the skin on your fruits and vegetables as much as you can – this includes potatoes too!
  • Add a can of kidney beans, black beans or other legume to soups, casseroles or spaghetti sauce. It can replace all or some of the meat, or simply be added to boost the fibre and nutrition!

Eat the right kind of fat:

  • Choose fish instead of meat once or twice a week.
    • Try canned salmon patties instead of beef burgers.
    • Enjoy a tuna sandwich instead of bologna.
  • Trim most fat from your meat and choose lower fat kinds:
    • Stew, bake or broil moose meat, chicken, pork and beef
    • Trim fat you can see around pork chops and steak
    • Remove the skin from chicken, turkey and goose
    • Buy leaner ground meat, and drain the fat after cooking
  • Choose plant-based fat to add more often
    • Cook with canola oil instead of butter
    • Pick peanut oil for a stir fry
    • Choose oil-based vinaigrette dressing for salads
    • Include small amounts of nuts, seeds and avocado a few times each week

Reduce use of sugar:

  • Cut back on sugar added to tea and coffee. Are you sure you really like the taste, or just the sweetness?
  • Stop regular pop, juice, juice mixes, juice crystals and fruit punch. Save them for occasional treats, and use a small glass. Make sure you drink water.
  • Choose unsweetened breakfast cereal, plain yogurt, and add fruit for sweetness and heart benefits!

To protect your heart and body:

  • Get enough sleep. Adults need 7-9 hours every night. Go to bed earlier if that will help.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Move your body every day for at least 20 minutes if you can. Walk, climb the stairs, bike, swim, skate, run. This means doing more than your usual chores and housework.
  • Reduce your stress, or manage your stress in helpful ways.
  • Cut back or quit smoking. It’s one of the best things you can do.
  • Cut back on alcohol. In some cases, no alcohol is the best choice.

Be heart healthy!

Adapted from: Eat Right Ontario 28 Cooking Tips for Heart Month


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