So far this month we’ve given you some helpful hints for indulging wisely on Valentine’s Day and reminded you to “Get Your Plate in Shape” in honor of National Nutrition Month in March. We’re almost through February, but that doesn’t make the fact that it’s Heart Health Month any less important! So often, we hear others expressing how expensive it can be to eat and live healthfully, but here we’ve got some easy and inexpensive ways to keep your ticker ticking optimally, complements of Sarah-Jane Bedwell, Self’s “Eat Like Me” blogger.

Eat More Beans – We can’t think of a more under-used, inexpensive, and healthy food! Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, as well as other nutrients such as zinc and folate. Studies have shown them to be helpful to the heart in many ways, like lowering blood cholesterol. Try including beans in your diet by practicing “Meatless Mondays” in your household each week. Whip up a quick bean and rice casserole, toss some beans and low-fat cheese in a tortilla for bean burritos, or throw them over a salad for a quick, healthy, and cheap meal!

Switch from Full-Fat to Low-Fat Dairy – Dairy is full of nutrients and an important component of a healthy diet, especially for women, since we need extra calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health. The key is to make sure that the dairy you choose is low-fat. Many people assume that 2% milk and cheese fits the bill, but it’s actually still fairly high in saturated fat. Choose 1% or skim milk instead, both of which are heart-healthy choices. For cheeses, choose low-fat versions of your favorites, but skip the fat-free ones as they tend to be higher in preservatives and not nearly as yummy. Another option is to choose softer cheeses, like goat cheese or feta, which are naturally lower in saturated fat than harder cheeses like parmesan or cheddar.

Bust a Move – Did you know that exercise is the only sure-fire way to raise your good (HDL) cholesterol? Even just moderate amounts of exercise can be one of the best things that you can do for your heart. So find a fun activity, and aim for 30 minutes on most days of the week. Make it a family affair so that everyone can spend time together, get their exercise, and have some fun!

Enjoy a Tuna Sandwich for Lunch – The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice per week for good heart health. The omega-3 fats in fish such as salmon and tuna help to ward off plaque in the arteries. Canned or vacuum-packed salmon and tuna are just as nutritious as fresh and super affordable! Opt for chunk light tuna over chunk white to avoid a higher mercury content. Twice each week, try toasting two slices of whole wheat bread, mixing chunk light tuna, light mayo, chopped onion, carrots, and celery, and placing the mixture between the bread topped with crisp romaine lettuce. Such an easy and delicious way to get your healthy fats!

Skip the Salt – Americans eat six times more sodium than they need each day, and even if you watch your table salt, you may be getting more salt than you realize since sodium manages to sneak its way into almost all packaged and processed foods, and even many seasonings and sauces. Try seasoning your food with fresh herbs and spice blends that do not contain salt, or better yet, make your own spice blend so that you can control exactly what goes in it. Skipping the salt altogether or adding only a small amount will help you bump up the flavor in a heart-healthy way!

For more heart-healthy tips, log on to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website atwww.eatright.org. If heart health is a particular concern for you and your family, the team of registered dietitians at Family Food can help design a meal plan to suit your specific needs. You could be entitled to SIX FREE VISITS depending on your insurance carrier, so feel free to contact us by phone or e-mail, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter by clicking the icons in the upper-right corner of our homepage!

Source: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/blogs/eatlikeme/2012/02/five-easy-inexpensive-things-y.html

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