By Brittany Nelson, RD, CHWC
You see them on menus everywhere—in sandwiches, salads, omelettes and more. Avocados have become trendy during the past few years—and with good reason. They’re full of healthy fats, which was one of the recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines also warned against eating foods with refined grains and added sugars.
If you’ve done any online research about adding heart-healthy foods—such as those that are high in monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and fiber—to your diet, you probably found it isn’t easy. But most people don’t have the time or desire to read through the guidelines or do online research, so as a registered dietitian, I’m here to help with these 10 tips.
- Use ground steel-cut oats when baking. These have good amounts of protein, fiber and minerals, such as iron, which can improve heart health. Just blend or pulse them in a food processor and use instead of white flour.
- Make salad dressings using heart-healthy oils. Heart-healthy oils provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Heart-healthy oils include:
Making your own salad dressing can also help by reducing the amount of added carbohydrates, sugar and sodium that may be found in prepackaged dressings.
- Try a new granola bar recipe. Granola bars are great on-the-go snacks. Try using, nuts, nut butters, and seeds—such as flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds—to make your bars bulky and high in fiber and heart-healthy properties.
- Include Greek yogurt into your diet. Greek yogurt is high in potassium and low in sodium making it a heart-healthy dairy option. Just remember to find a yogurt with fewer than 10 grams of sugar.
- Don’t forget the trail mix. Making a heart-healthy trail mix is not only easy; it’s also practical when you need to eat on the go. Try adding walnuts, unsalted almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds to the mix.
- Dip those veggies into chickpeas. Chickpeas are heart-healthy and high fiber, which can help keep you feeling full. Blend chickpeas and add a few heart-healthy ingredients to the mix and you have delicious hummus to share at parties.
- Add avocado. Avocado is a monounsaturated (healthy) fat and can be added to varied dishes between meals. Just remember, one-third of an avocado is a serving (about 110 calories).
- Try a new pancake recipe. Pancakes are often made with processed ingredients including hidden sodium for preservation. Try adding nuts and seeds into your heart-healthy pancake recipe. Have your kids help by adding in heart-healthy seeds!
- Go meatless on Mondays with a black bean quinoa burger. Meatless Monday is a nationwide phenomenon to influence people to reduce their consumption of meat—especially red meat. Research has shown a correlation between red meat and an increased risk for heart disease. If you’re looking to add protein, keep in mind that quinoa is also the only grain that is considered a complete protein.
- Cooking salmon and other fish. Many people enjoy grilled salmon at restaurants, but what’s keeping you from cooking it at home? Teach yourself something new by searching online for videos to learn how to properly grill salmon and other fish. It’s easier than you might think!