Are you leading a heart-healthy lifestyle while at home and on the go? February is American Heart Month, a good reminder to practice self-care every day to help prevent heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. It is essential to find a balance in selecting healthy foods and balancing that with adequate activity to keep your heart beating strong. Getting started does not have to be overwhelming. Remember setting small goals leads to achieving bigger healthy lifestyle goals.
Let’s start with your physical activity. Getting at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, is something to work towards if you are not already achieving that goal. If you are not quite there, start with two days a week, and once that is part of your routine, increase. There are three different types of exercise you want to focus on, aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening. The main focus is on aerobic, any movement that raises your heartbeat. The muscle-strengthening activity works different specific muscle groups such as your legs, hips, back, stomach, chest, shoulders, and arms. Bone-strengthening produces a force on your bones that promotes them to grow and stay strong. As with any physical activity you do, make sure to do a warmup and cool down to help prevent muscle injury. In addition, make sure to hydrate with water before, during, and after activity to help prevent dehydration. Be ready for activity wherever you are by keeping sneakers with you when you can, to not make being on the go an excuse for not achieving your physical activity goals.
When we shift our focus to our foods, be sure to select those lower in sodium and saturated fat for optimal heart health. How do we do that? When shopping for foods at home, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on fresh foods and limiting those foods on the interior that are packaged and processed. Take a look at the food label for any food you choose and learn more about what that food is made of. Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that cause blockages in our blood and lead to higher cholesterol. The lower you go in saturated fats, and total fat will be a healthier choice for your heart. Low fat is less then 5g of total fat, while lean is less then 10g of total fat and less then 4.5grams of saturated fat. Unless prescribed differently from your physician, sodium aims for less than 2300mg per day. Really, 1500mg is all you need to survive. So, ditch the saltshaker, cook with fresh and dried herbs and seasonings and limit processed and packaged foods. Try to find a similar product with less sodium or eat a smaller portion if you choose these. Building our plate with various fruits and veggies first, making at least half our grains whole grains, and choosing lean meat and protein sources will keep our hearts on a healthy path.
Our busy schedules often keep us on the go, challenging us to make healthy choices as we would at home. There are a few strategies to keep in mind to stay focused on heart health when eating out. Portion sizes have grown, and we all want to get the most value for our money and prevent wasting food, but what can we do when presented with such large portions? For starters, ask if you can order a smaller portion. Many times this is an option and will be at a lower cost. If not, ask for a to-go container and before you dig in, separate what you will be taking home. Only keep the portion you should eat on your plate and enjoy the rest at home as another meal or two. If there is a healthy one to choose from, eating an appetizer is an excellent option for achieving smaller portions or sharing large meals with a friend. When choosing sides, trade out the French fries for a salad with dressing on the side, a cup of veggie soup, or fruit. Keep an eye on sauces and dressing that may be part of the meal, order these on the side to control how much you consume. This will limit extra sodium, sugars, and calories added to the healthy choices we are making. When selecting your protein choices, go lean! Look for lean cuts with round or loin in the name, or skinless poultry, fish, shellfish, or beans. Choose grilled or broiled over fried and breaded options and aim for 3-4 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards at the meal. When selecting your beverage at home or away, choose water! The benefits of water are endless, and most of us are not getting enough. Enjoy less sugar and calories found in soda and other beverages and save your money by choosing water!
Home or on the go, your heart health matters every day. Aim for healthier choices. Your heart will thank you!