Be Sweet to Yourself: Use “Good, Better, and Best” Food Choices
A heart healthy diet is low in refined sugar and sweeteners, low in sodium, low in trans fats, and high in “good, better, and best” choices, including nutrient-dense vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and whole grains.
Let’s start with sugar (since you will be seeing “the big red heart” a LOT this month). The latest research continues to show that sugar is a leading contributor to obesity and adult-onset diabetes and increases our risk of cardiovascular disease. Sodium is another heart concern; consuming too much salt can increase our risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Ready to fight back? I recommend, whenever possible, flavoring foods with “good, better, and best” alternatives to sugar and salt. Try a few of these food flavoring tweaks in your own meals!
- When recipes call for sugar, try chopped dates, raw honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup. But, remember, just because it isn't refined white sugar, it doesn't mean it's calorie-free or not made of sugar. Go easy on these alternatives, too.
- Instead of salt, try chopped onions or garlic.
- Ditch the salt shaker for “better” choices, including herbs and spices. There are dozens to select from, like Italian flavorings such as rosemary, thyme, and basil; ground spices, such as cayenne and chili powder; or simple additions that pack a lot of flavor, such as cumin and lemon pepper.
- Be brave and bold with your flavoring and try the many varieties of hot sauce out there
- To flavor fish, vegetables, and salads, try citrus -- lemon, lime, and orange are great complements to fresh foods. Use a tablespoon or two of citrus juice, or for a more intense flavor, try a teaspoon of finely grated citrus zest.
- Replace soda, sport drinks, and energy drinks with flavored water. Use citrus juice or try muddled blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, or watermelon! You’ll have a sweet and healthy alternative.
- Other heart healthy tips for your daily diet include adding more fiber to your diet with whole grains, fruits and leafy greens; and including healthy fats in each meal, such as nuts, flax and chia seeds, olive oil, and avocado.
All of those changes might sound a little overwhelming. I encourage you to make one little change at a time if that’s more doable for you. Small steps lead to big changes.
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