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Heart Health: Think Outside of the Box, Literally

If you follow the H3 Daily blog, you are probably aware of the numerous foods and behavior changes that promote heart health—everything from consistent exercise improving blood pressure to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats preventing heart disease.  Instead of discussing the benefits of olive oil or relying on a plant-based diet, I want to take a different approach in regards to heart health and our daily food choices.  I would bet a lot of you know which foods to eat.  The bigger, harder question to answer is how do I eat healthy at home? The answer: cook.

Added Sugar

Corporations that produce processed and packaged foods add more fat, sugar, and salt to foods than you would at home.  According to Harvard School of Public Health, most Americans consume 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day and most of it comes from processed or pre-prepared foods.

Too Much Sodium

Have you checked the amount of sodium levels found in restaurants required to list their nutritional information?  It can be mind-blowing.  Eighty percent of the sodium in our diet comes from processed or packaged foods, not from the sodium/salt we add during the cooking process at home.

Watch the Fat

Have you ever watched TV cooking shows?  Olive oil is sometimes measured by how many times you make a circle inside the pan.  Would you like some broccoli with that oil?  At home, you have full control over what and how much you put into your meals. You’d be surprised how little oil you need to cook a meal, and every calorie counts!

Seasoning Without Sacrificing

You want to add a little salt?  No problem.  Make sure to add other ingredients such as herbs and spices to flavor it up, but a little pinch of salt here and there is only going to make your meals taste better and you’ll consume less sodium compared to if you went out to eat.  Adding brown sugar to your home made slow-cooked oatmeal?  That is okay…1 tsp. of brown sugar with toasted walnuts and blueberries is a great way to flavor plain oatmeal without worrying how much sugar has been added to the pre-prepared Maple Cinnamon Cranberry Crunch Oatmeal (that was exaggerated, ha).

So when you are thinking about what you can do to prevent heart disease or monitor a present condition, think about how much time you are willing to spend in your kitchen cooking your own food.   What are you willing to prepare on a Saturday or Sunday?  What would you change about your dinners?  How can you incorporate salmon, nuts or avocado into your meal plan?  What simple snacks can you pre-prepare?

I know this was thinking outside of the box when it comes to heart health, but I truly believe cooking more of your meals can help maintain optimal heart health. Here’s a photo of my heart healthy, meal prepped fridge to show you that it can be done. All it takes is a little planning but it’s totally worth the effort.

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