Eat Your Way to Better Heart Health

Healthy Living

Eat Your Way To Better Heart Health

'Tis the season when those wonderful New Year’s resolutions may be starting to unravel. Maybe your resolution wasn’t specific enough. Resolving to “exercise more” or “lose weight” are easy ways to set yourself up for failure. Or maybe it just wasn’t realistic. After all, you can’t expect to be a completely different person on January 1 than you were on December 31. But if one of your 2022 goals is to change from an unhealthy to a healthy diet, here’s some advice: Put your heart into it. In other words, look for ways to eat that improve your heart health, not just your waistline.

“The key to losing weight is to approach it not from a ‘dieting’ mindset, but from a healthy eating mentality. Healthy eating is about giving our body more nutrient dense foods and leaving room for foods that simply bring us joy,” said Sidney Smith, RDN LD, Clinical Dietitian, Bariatric Center of Kansas City. To get started on your journey toward a heart-healthy diet, it’s important to know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit.

“I recommend visiting USDA’s website to get an idea of what to eat and your daily caloric needs to maintain your body weight. And maintaining a healthy weight improves cardiovascular health as well,” said Kirsten Lampe, PA-C, AdventHealth Medical Group Primary Care.

For many of us, one of the biggest hang-ups is the notion that eating healthy is a lot less fun than not eating healthy. The truth is, it’s an opportunity to tap into our adventurous side.

“By elevating meals with elements like seasonings, healthy eating can taste amazing and be fun. Garlic keeps our heart healthy, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, cinnamon may help control blood sugar, basil can protect our DNA and keep our heart healthy, and oregano has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties,” said Smith.

Of course, it’s not only what we eat. It’s how much. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can all lead to eating more calories than you should. “When you’re eating out, be mindful that portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. Aim for keeping protein servings about the size of your palm, veggie servings half the plate and carbs a third of your plate,” said Smith.

Put your plans into action by creating daily menus

Emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Choose lean protein sources and healthy fats and limit salty foods. And remember, variety also makes your meals and snacks more interesting. For example, if you have grilled salmon one evening, try a black bean burger the next night.

“You don’t have to be an amazing chef to eat healthy, but you have to at least try to cook at home. And practice makes perfect,” said Lampe.

“Cooking and healthy eating is a lifestyle, not a quick all-or-nothing change. Overall, we want to make small changes that lead to long-term results,” said Smith.

For many of us, one of the biggest hang-ups is the notion that eating healthy is a lot less fun than not eating healthy. The truth is, it’s an opportunity to tap into our adventurous side.

How can you fight cravings for unhealthy foods?

Keep yourself fueled and satisfied by doing the following:

  • Fill up on vegetables first! Yes, vegetables are typically full of fiber but low in calories — which can often fill you up.
  • Don’t skip meals. Studies show that people are more likely to binge eat on their favorite foods if they skip meals.
  • Drink plenty of water. Aim to drink at least 64 oz. per day.

Allow yourself to occasionally have “unhealthy food” in moderation. The more you tell yourself you can’t have something, the more you’re going to crave it. It’s human nature.

Replace night-time snacking with a productive, healthy task — crocheting, organizing, journaling or even brushing your teeth!

Talk to your healthcare professional about what a healthy weight looks like for you. To find the right primary care provider for you, visit