March is National Nutrition Month

The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages making heart-smart choices during Nutrition Month – and every month. A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best weapons in the fight against heart disease – the No. 1 killer of Americans. Cardiovascular disease is largely preventable.

FoodWhen it comes to diet, making smart choices will benefit heart health and overall health. Incorporating small, simple changes can make a big difference in living a healthier life and can help prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

When hunger strikes, it’s a good idea to have healthy snacks nearby. In the absence of healthy snacks, vending machines, candy aisles and fast-food restaurants make poor substitutions.

Plan ahead for healthy snacking and include foods rich in fiber (whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits), potassium (oranges, potatoes, cantaloupe) and omega-3 fatty acids (make mix with walnuts, pumpkin seeds and ground flaxseeds to sprinkle on meals or eat as a snack). Try colorful foods to get antioxidant-rich flavonoids in your diet.

Preparing and cooking meals at home allows for better control over the nutritional content and the overall healthfulness of the foods people eat. And it can also save money. While it’s generally healthier and cheaper to buy groceries at the store and prepare your meals at home, sometimes the sheer number of food choices at the supermarket can seem overwhelming.

The AHA recommends that you eat a wide variety of nutritious foods daily:

How much should I eat Infographic PDF

Vegetables

  • Fresh, frozen, canned and dried
  • 5 servings per day
  • Examples:
    • 1 cup raw leafy greens
    • ½ cup cut-up vegetables
    • ½ cup cooked beans or peas
    •  ½ cup 100% vegetable juice

Fruits

  • Fresh, frozen, canned and dried
  • 4 servings per day
  • Examples:
    • 1 medium whole fruit
    • ½ cup cut-up fruit
    • ½ cup 100% fruit juice
    • ¼ cup dried fruit

Grains

  • At least half should be whole grain/high in dietary fiber
  • 6 servings per day
  • Examples:
    • 1 slice bread
    • 1 small tortilla
    • 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes
    • 1 oz (⅛ cup) uncooked pasta or rice
    • ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal
    • ½ cup popped popcorn

Dairy

  • Low-fat and fat-free
  • 3 servings per day
  • Examples:
    •  1 cup milk
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • 1.5 oz cheese

Poultry, meat and eggs

  • Lean and extra-lean; skin and visible fat removed
  • 8-9 servings per week
  • Examples:
    • 3 oz cooked meat or poultry
    • 1 egg or 2 egg whites

Fish and other seafood

  • Preferably oily fish that provide omega-3 fatty acids
  • 2-3 servings per week
  • Example:
    • 3 oz cooked fish or seafood

Nuts, seeds, beans and legumes

  • 5 servings per week
  • Examples:
    •  Tbsp peanut butter
    • 2 Tbsp or ½ oz nuts or seeds
    • ¼ cup cooked beans or peas

Fats and oils

  • Preferably unsaturated
  • 3 servings per day
  • Examples:
    • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (canola, corn, olive, soybean, safflower)
    • 1 Tbsp soft margarine
    • 1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
    • 1 Tbsp light salad dressing

For more information and recipes, visit www.heart.org/nutrition.

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