10 tips for heart-healthy eating

Eating heart-healthy meals doesn't necessarily mean spending hours cooking everything from scratch or spending a fortune on specialty groceries. Here are 10 tips for heart-healthy eating that can help you improve your diet without spending much more time and money on food than you already do.

10 tips for heart-healthy eating

1. Redefine fast food

Grocery stores have a huge selection of ready-to-use salad greens. In just a few minutes, you can pick up a bag of baby spinach or mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, grated carrots, mandarin orange slices and chopped nuts and raisins for a salad that instantly offers two to three fruit and vegetable servings.

2. Follow a new “second-helpings rule”

Allow yourself to take second helpings only of vegetables at mealtimes. That way you'll cut calories from fat and boost fibre intake while still feeling full.

3. Eat a rainbow

From blackberries to carrots, and tomatoes to pineapples, eat as many different-coloured fruits and vegetables as possible daily for the widest variety of nutrients.

4. Splurge like a chef

Don't stick to the same old favourites when you buy fruit and vegetables. Be adventurous and try something new. Look for ideas for new ways to cook them — such as broiling, poaching or baking fruits.

5. Invest in your cupboard and freezer

You should keep some canned (in juice) and frozen fruit and vegetables on hand for times when you run out of fresh or don't have time to wash and chop.

Plus, as a bonus, some frozen produce has more nutrients than fresh versions because it's frozen immediately after harvesting.

6. Tuck in extras

Keep a bag of grated carrots in the fridge to toss into soups, stews, casseroles, sauces and tuna salad and add extra frozen vegetables to soups and stews.

7. Wash and blot, but don't peel

Wash all produce thoroughly and blot it dry. Then eat it all, skin included — the skin is full of fibre, and the fruit or veggie flesh just below the skin contains extra nutrients.

8. Think fibre in the morning

Breakfast on oatmeal or another high-fibre cereal and each gram of soluble fibre will cut your LDL cholesterol substantially, according to the American Heart Association.

In fact, one bowl of high-fibre cereal a day could make a big contribution to keeping your low density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol levels heart-healthy.

9. Boil once, then freeze the leftovers

Brown rice, barley and bulgur are delicious. To save weekday preparation time, cook up a big pot on the weekend and freeze extras in single-meal portions, then defrost in the microwave as needed.

You can also add these defrosted grains to ground poultry for extra body when making meat loaf or burgers.

10. Always buy baked goods with the word “whole” in it

Choose breads with "whole wheat" leading the ingredient list and with at least three grams (3/4 teaspoon) of fibre per serving.

So you should substitute whole wheat toast for bagels, and low-fat whole wheat muffins for pastries. And make sandwiches with whole wheat breads or rolls. Choose whole wheat pita breads instead of white ones.

Keep these ten tips for heart-healthy eating in mind when you're planning your meals or out shopping to help yourself on your way to a more heart-healthy diet.

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