By Jenny Kim, clinical dietitian at CHOC
February is a month filled with valentines and opportunities to show your loved ones some extra appreciation. Amidst all the heart-shaped cards, chocolates and decor, let’s give a little extra love to our own hearts!
Cardiovascular disease is a serious condition that affects many adults. The good news is there are lifestyle practices that can help keep your heart healthy. Children that incorporate these healthy habits will be less likely to suffer from heart disease as an adult.
Here are some recommendations from the American Heart Association, with tips to help incorporate them into your family’s lifestyle.
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Try to include at least one serving of fruits or vegetables with each meal.
- They make great snacks too, especially paired with some hummus, nut butters or yogurt. Get healthy snack ideas that the whole family will love
2. Eat more whole grains
- There can be easy swaps from white flour to whole grain options, such as swapping white bread with whole wheat bread, or white rice with brown rice. There are whole grain options available for bagels, pasta, tortillas, pita bread, crackers and more.
- Aim to choose the whole grain option at least half of the time, but even if you can include just a bit more than you currently do, it will still add up over time.
3. Choose your protein wisely, aiming for lean options
- Aim to eat a variety of proteins including fish, seafood, legumes and nuts.
- For meats, such as beef and chicken, choose the leaner cuts whenever possible.
- Try to avoid too many processed meats, such as sausage, hot dogs and ham.
4. Reduce intake of added sugar
- A common source of added sugars is through our beverages. Drink more water, and cut down on juice, soda or other sweet beverages.
- When comparing two similar items in the grocery store, choose the item that has less added sugar per serving on the nutrition label.
- Enjoy your Valentine’s Day treats, but always practice moderation!
Include physical activity
- Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, ideally spread throughout the week.
- If you’re nowhere close to those numbers, take heart! Just try including a little more than what you’re doing – even 10 minutes a day adds up, and you can always build on it later.
Keep in mind that even small changes will add up to great benefits over time. May this month be a reminder to take good care of our own hearts and the hearts of our loved ones.
For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program