Edamame Wontons

A warm and hearty dish filled with plant-based protein and a delicious broth. These wontons are steamed but could also be pan-fried for a crispy texture!

Edamame Wontons

Packed with plant-based protein in a mushroom broth with delicious umami flavor!
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course

Ingredients

  • 6 scallions chopped
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 cups edamame (shelled) cooked and drained
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 30 wonton wrappers
  • 4 cups mushroom broth
  • 1 lemongrass stalk
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped

Instructions

  • In a food processor, combine scallions, sesame oil, basil, edamame, sour cream, and hot sauce. Process into a puree.
  • Place a heaping tablespoon of the fillling onto a wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in a small bowl of water and wipe the edges of the wonton. Place the top wonton on and press down along the edges to seal. Continue with remaining filling and wrappers.
  • Place the mushroom broth in a medium pot and warm over medium-low heat.
  • Pound the stalk of lemongrass with the back of a heavy knife to release the oils and then discard the out layer. mince the inner portion of pale stalk and add to the broth. Also add in the mirin and soy sauce.
  • Gently simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add 1+ cup of broth to a saucepan and add a single layer of wontons. Cover and steam over medium-low heat, about 2 minutes.
  • Repeat until all wontons and warmed/cooked.
  • Divide wontons into bowls and top with remaining broth, toasted seseame seeds and cilantro.

Eat more Fiber? Cool Beans

I wish fiber was cooler. Carbs are sexy, protein is hulky and fat, well fat is just delicious. But I picture fiber hiding in the corner at the school dance hoping no one makes eye contact or asks them to dance. When I start talking about fiber most people get a glazed look in their eyes and I can see them just nod their heads pretending to listen. But if you only knew how much fiber can have an impact on your digestion, gut health, immunity, weight and overall well-being, then you would think it’s pretty darn cool too. 

So, what is fiber? Fiber is the part of the cellular structure of plant based foods that your body can’t break down. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate and aid in digestions, weight management, blood sugar regulation, supports gut health and stimulates the intestines providing regularity. 

There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble and you need both for a healthy digestive tract. The main difference is that soluble fiber (as the name states) dissolves in water and insoluble does not.Soluble fiber dissolves into a gel-like consistency that aids digestions. Insoluble absorbs water and makes your stool softer and easier to pass. Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber is varying amounts including whole fruits, fresh vegetables, whole-grains, nuts, seeds, bean, peas and legumes.

Dietary fiber provides many healthy benefits however the shocking news is that more than 95% of the American population is fiber deficient. Seriously, 95%. This forgotten nutrient intake has decreased with the increase in fast and convince foods that sorely lack fiber. The recommended daily amount is 14g per 1,000 calories for adults. So based on a typical 2,000 calorie diet you need about 24+g of fiber a day. Most Americans are only averaging about 16g per day!

Here are the health benefits of a high fiber diet:

  • Weight management – Dietary fiber helps you feel full longer and results in a decrease in the intake of overall calories and aid in weight loss. 
  • Regulates blood sugar – Fiber slows down the rate that sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream, which keeps your blood glucose levels from rising too quickly. 
  • Cholesterol – Looking to lower your cholesterol levels? Some soluble fiber can reduce total cholesterol and LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels. Fiber helps to excrete fat and cholesterol in the small intestines instead of being absorbed into the bloodstream. 
  • Gut Health – Fiber is fuel for your friend gut bacteria in your colon. Fiber feeds the gut bacteria which produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA play an important role in the health of our gut and metabolism and are the main source of fuel for cells in the colon. Research is suggesting that the production of SCFA can effect appetite regulation, reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other inflammatory diseases. The higher intake of plant foods the greater amount go SCFA produced. Also, the wider variety of plants results in a wider variety of fuel for bacteria. Try and choose new fruits and vegetables, the key is getting a diverse mix of fibers in your diet since a different mix of SCFA are produced from each type of fiber we eat. 
  • Promotes regularity – I have to mention the benefit of regularity since that is pretty much all fiber is known for. So, if you need some assistance moving things along consistently, look to your good friend fiber to help.

So now that you know what fiber can do for you, here are a few easy ways to increase the amount of fiber in your diet: 

  • Make breakfast smoothie with dragon fruit or avocado
  • Add a tablespoon of flax seeds or chia seeds to morning oatmeal or smoothie
  • Snack on 1/2 cup of raspberries for a quick 4g of fiber
  • Have a mixed green side salad before enjoying dinner
  • Choose whole grains over refined

 And remember, plant diversity is key. Next time you are at the grocery store pick a a new fruit or vegetable. An easy way your diversify your plants throughout the year is to eat seasonally. 

Now a word of caution….We all know that high fiber foods may come with some uncomfortable side affect such as gas or bloating. When increasing the amount of fiber in your diet GO SLOW to avoid such symptoms. Your digestive system needs a little time to adapt to the increase and will be able to tolerate more fiber as you consistently consume more. Also drink plenty of water, since fiber absorbs water in your intestines to keep things moving efficiently. 

It’s time to give fiber the attention that it deserves. Let’s count grams of fiber each meal instead of carbs, protein or fat! With the spotlight on, I can picture fiber stepping out of the shadows and break it down on the dance floor…


Mango Mint Breakfast Smoothie

The mornings are getting a little bit warmer and I’m upping my smoothie game. Try out this one for a refreshing mint kick and a healthy dose of fiber to start your morning off right!

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangos

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup plain yogurt or plant-based yogurt

1/4 cup fresh mint

1 tsp honey

1 Tbsp flax seeds

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1 1/2 cups ice

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy! Makes about two 10 oz servings.


Eating for Heart Health

 Eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your heart in tip top shape. Our tickers work hard to pump fresh blood throughout our body and it is time to show our appreciation. Focusing on heart health has never been more important. With one-third of the population suffering from heart disease, making a few minor changes in our diets can have significant positive effects on the health of our heart. Eating a heart healthy diet is not just for those suffering from heart disease or hypertension, it is adopting a healthy approach to foods which leads to overall well-being.

Tame the Salt 

When you think of heart health, and what mostly affects it, undoubtedly what comes to mind is sodium. Reducing the amount of sodium consumption is an important part of a heart healthy diet. Although sodium is essential for your body to function properly, and like anything in excess, too much sodium can be harmful especially for those with high blood pressure. Reducing the amount of table salt you use is a great first step but hidden sodium is in many of our favorite condiments, packaged foods and convenience/fast-foods. Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day. Start by eating more fresh foods and avoiding processed foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium as well as frozen produce. Choosing fresh meats from the butcher counter instead of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and hotdogs will also help limit the amount of sodium. 

Start Reading Labels:

Packaged foods often have high levels of sodium. Frozen entree meals, canned soups, canned vegetables, snack foods are notoriously high in sodium. Start reading labels to get comfortable choosing the right foods to meet your needs. Be on the lookout for products claiming to be “salt free”; it’s almost always not the case! To make it a bit more clear, here are what some of the terms mean: 

Salt free – less than 5mg sodium

Low sodium – 140mg of sodium or less per serving

Reduced sodium – At least 25% less sodium

Spice it up

Nobody likes bland food! While salt is the usual go-to for adding flavor, switch it up with herbs, dried spices, vinegar or citrus. This helps minimize the sodium while still elevating flavor. Adding fresh herbs is a great and underrated way to make dishes bold, bright, and fresh, try fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, dill, tarragon, thyme, or rosemary. Dried cumin, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg and paprika are staples in most spice cabinets and great additions in sweet and savory meals. Dialing up the heat can also increase favor. Dry red pepper flakes (quick tip: buy a new one! Chances are the one that’s been in your cabinet for years has lost its mojo), cayenne pepper or fresh diced spicy peppers can spice (and heat!) without the sodium. You can also buy a sodium-free seasoning blend or make your own at home!

Fill up on fiber

Viscous soluble fiber (fun to say isn’t it?) is not only optimal for digestion but it is also fantastic for your heart. Soluble fiber helps to control cholesterol levels and better manage blood sugars levels, which is important for heart health. Start by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables to increase fiber. I start every dinner with a small side salad full of leafy greens and raw veggies. Fiber is often forgotten but a powerful nutrient that helps maintain a healthy weight by keeping you feeling full longer while avoiding energy crashes and curb cravings for high fat/high sugar foods. Sounds pretty good huh?  Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, legumes, fruit and vegetables and binds with cholesterol in the body which helps remove it during digestion. Start increasing fiber into your diet slowly and remember to drink plenty of water. Aim for at least 25g per day!

Choose low-fat dairy:

When choosing milk or dairy products, pick non-fat or low-fat options. Good news, there are plenty of varieties out there like nonfat (skim) and 1% fat milk. Try and avoid whole and 2% milk, full fat yogurts and ice cream. Look for cheeses that are low in saturated fat and sodium such as mozzarella and feta.

Healthy fats

One day fats are good, the next day they are demonized, so what’s the real deal? A nutritious diet does not mean cutting out all fats, just focusing on healthier varieties. Generally, focus on eating 20-25% of your daily calories from fat with fewer than 10% per day coming from saturated fats.

Our heart healthy fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated found in nuts, olive oil, canola oil and avocados. These fats help increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol in our bodies. Swapping out these fats for butter, lard and shortening may help reduce cholesterol in the body. 

Research shows that limiting saturated fat lowers unhealthy cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad” cholesterol, is a waxy substance that can build up and clog blood vessels, which can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. Always avoid trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils which are the biggest culprits in raising your LDL cholesterol!

Here’s the skinny (HA! Get it?), replace foods high in saturated fats with ones higher in unsaturated fats. Look for these terms when purchasing high-fat foods:

Saturated Fat-Free – Less than 0.5 gram saturated fat and less than 0.5 grams trans fat

Low in saturated fat – 1 gram or less saturated fat and no more than 15% calories from saturated fat

Reduced saturated fat – at least 25% less saturated fat and reduced by more than 1 gram of fat

Boost your Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids that may be beneficial not only to brain and nerve health but also in lowering cholesterol levels and supporting heart health. These fatty acids, often referred to by their acronyms ALA, DHA, EPA, cannot be made by the body and need to be consumed from the food we eat. Aim for about 250-500mg combined EPA and DHA daily.

Some great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are:

Fatty Fish – Salmon, herring, sardines. A 3 oz serving has about 1,000mg +

Walnuts – a perfect plant-based source of omega-3, great raw, toasted or try walnut oil on your salad

Flaxseeds – add ground flaxseeds to your morning oatmeal or smoothie for a dose of healthy fats and fiber!

Chia Seeds – a nutrient powerhouse full of omega-3’s, protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals

Hemp Seeds – also high in protein, extra yummy when toasted and added to salads

Power to the Plants: 

Substituting plant protein for animal protein is a great way to reduce your fat and cholesterol levels and to increase your fiber. Plant proteins are naturally low in saturated fat. Making beans, legumes, or peas the focal point of your plate for a hearty dose of protein and fiber.  Fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn is wonderful for your heart. Since fiber stays in the stomach longer than most other foods, you feel fuller longer, which can help you eat less.

Go Nuts:

Nuts are the perfect snack food! They are inexpensive, easy to store, share and frankly, they are delicious! Besides being packed with protein, nuts contain unsaturated fat and a plethora of other heart-boosting nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and plant sterols which can help lower cholesterol! Opt for raw and unsalted varieties and remember that nuts are very calorically dense so portion control is key! Also keep in mind that the nuts you are eating are covered in chocolate, sugar or salt, you are most likely cancelling out all the heart-health benefits.

Green light on Phytonutrients: 

Red wine is good for the heart right? You’re right….well, kind of. The resveratrol, found in grapes is a phytonutrient that is a powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with longevity. Alcohol in moderation (1-2) drinks per day, has been linked to a healthy heart. So what are phytonutrients? Phytonutrients are plant chemical compounds found in plants that contribute to their color, taste and smell. Colorful fruits and vegetables contain thousands of biologically active phytonutrients that play a role in reducing heart disease. The more color to add to your meals, the more heart-healthy phytonutrients are you are eating. “Eating the Rainbow” is a fun and effective way to remember to add phytonutrients to meals. Aim for 4 unique colors on each plate! 

Think Mediterranean:  

Year after year the Mediterranean diet is ranked best overall diet in the annual ranking best the best diets conducted by U.S. News & World Reports. The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. While there is no single definition of the Mediterranean diet, it is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil. 

The main components of Mediterranean lifestyle include:

  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
  • Moderate portions of dairy products
  • Limited intake of red meat

Other noteworthy elements of the Mediterranean diet that make it more of a lifestyle than a diet, are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active.

Get Moving:

Looking beyond food, physical activity can play a huge role in heart health. Adults should get at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, including muscle strength training activities. Find exercise activities that you enjoy and take pleasure in to keep you motivated and make it less of a “chore”. Being physically active helps to lower blood pressure, manage stress and maintain a healthy weight. 

Whole Grains over Refined: 

Choosing whole grains can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are loaded with B vitamins, fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, selenium and many other nutrients that are lost during the refining process. Some excellent sources of whole grains are oats, whole wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, brown and wild rice. 

Tie on your apron

Convenience and time constraint often lead to pulling out the take out menu, but cooking at home more allows you to control the ingredients used in your meal. At home you are able to limit the amount salt, sugar and saturated fat during the cooking process. If you have children, getting them involved in the cooking process is a great way to expose them to healthy eating habits. Keep a recipe book of your favorite heart-healthy go-to dishes to keep you on track and make it easy. 

Portion distortion:

Another critical focal point to remember is to consider portion sizes. Increased portion sizes means an increase on the scale… Carrying excess body weight means your heart must work harder, and this can lead to high blood pressure – a major cause of heart disease. Many of us suffer from “portion distortion” where our eyes are bigger than our stomach. Think about scooping rice from a pot into your bowl, without measuring you may be giving yourself 2-3 serving sizes instead of one! To adjust your senses, leave measuring cups, measuring spoons and a food scale on your kitchen counter for a week to retrain your eyes by measuring everything. You may be surprised at what an accurate portion size of your favorite food looks like! This may be especially significant when it comes to putting oil in a pan to cook with, your favorite pasta dish or the carton of ice cream. If you are still hungry at the end of a meal, first wait a few minutes to let your hunger and fullness hormones kick in, then fill up on more fruits and vegetables as needed.

When ordering food from a restaurant, portion sizes can often be much more than 1 meals worth. At the time of ordering, also request a to-go box. When your plate comes, immediately put half your plate into a to-go box and put to the side. Then enjoy what is on your plate without worrying about over-eating. Bonus, lunch for tomorrow is taken care of!

Ditch the sugar:

While it tastes so sweet, it is not too sweet to your heart! Eating too much added sugar can lead to weight gain and maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor to having a healthy heart. Sugars can also raise triglyceride levels that puts your heart at risk. To satisfy a sweet craving, opt for a date, piece of fruit or small piece of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa).

Eating healthy for heart health does not have to be confusing! To summarize, include a variety of:

  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains,
  • Unsaturated fat
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Nuts 
  • Legumes
  • Fish, poultry or other plant-based protein 

I hope these tips inspire you to prepare heart healthy food in new and nutritious ways that are both fulfilling and delicious! While making all of these changes at once may seem overwhelming, I recommend starting small and going slowly by making one heart heathy change per week. Switch white rice for brown rice or swap your usual steak dinner for a plant based protein. Each week, add another heart healthy change and continue to build! Starting with small manageable changes helps build long term sustainable success. Your heart works hard to keep you healthy, return the favor by eating fresh, colorful, unprocessed and whole foods!


“Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”

Simple dinners remind me of this old adage.

As the day goes on our glucose tolerance declines and there is a metabolic benefit to front loading calories earlier in the day. This eating style aligns with our circadian rhythm and research has shown it to be an effective way to manage weight.

This meal is my idea of perfect simple supper. A hearty salad of kale, radicchio, farro and Parmesan, a creamy vegan tomato soup (made with cashews!) and fresh baked rustic bread.

And of course a little shorty of my fav red burgundy goes perfect with the meal.   

Filling, satisfying, nutritious and best of all I will sleep like a champ

and feel great in the morning.




Loquats!!

I only discovered this fruit a few years ago in my parents backyard and now I patiently wait each year until spring to climb their tree and stuff my face with loquats. This small fruit tree is a sweet treat that is best eaten straight from the tree. The skin is tough so you can peel them but I just bite them open and eat the inside. I’ve seen recipes for loquat jam but since they are so small, need to be peeled, and have 2-3 large brown seeds it sounds like a lot of work! Loquats blemish and oxidize quickly which is why I assume I rarely see them at the grocery store but I have spotted them at the local farmers market! They are also very nutritious, high in carotenoids, folate, B6, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Now that I’ve discovered them I see the trees all over my neighborhood. Hopefully, you are lucky enough to have a friendly neighbor that will share their bounty, they are incredibly delicious!!


Eating for Heart Health

 Eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your heart in tip top shape. Our tickers work hard to pump fresh blood throughout our body and it is time to show our appreciation. Focusing on heart health has never been more important. With one-third of the population suffering from heart disease, making a few minor changes in our diets can have significant positive effects on the health of our heart. Eating a heart healthy diet is not just for those suffering from heart disease or hypertension, it is adopting a healthy approach to foods which leads to overall well-being.

Tame the Salt 

When you think of heart health, and what mostly affects it, undoubtedly what comes to mind is sodium. Reducing the amount of sodium consumption is an important part of a heart healthy diet. Although sodium is essential for your body to function properly, and like anything in excess, too much sodium can be harmful especially for those with high blood pressure. Reducing the amount of table salt you use is a great first step but hidden sodium is in many of our favorite condiments, packaged foods and convenience/fast-foods. Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day. Start by eating more fresh foods and avoiding processed foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium as well as frozen produce. Choosing fresh meats from the butcher counter instead of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and hotdogs will also help limit the amount of sodium. 

Start Reading Labels:

Packaged foods often have high levels of sodium. Frozen entree meals, canned soups, canned vegetables, snack foods are notoriously high in sodium. Start reading labels to get comfortable choosing the right foods to meet your needs. Be on the lookout for products claiming to be “salt free”; it’s almost always not the case! To make it a bit more clear, here are what some of the terms mean: 

Salt free – less than 5mg sodium

Low sodium – 140mg of sodium or less per serving

Reduced sodium – At least 25% less sodium

Spice it up

Nobody likes bland food! While salt is the usual go-to for adding flavor, switch it up with herbs, dried spices, vinegar or citrus. This helps minimize the sodium while still elevating flavor. Adding fresh herbs is a great and underrated way to make dishes bold, bright, and fresh, try fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, dill, tarragon, thyme, or rosemary. Dried cumin, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg and paprika are staples in most spice cabinets and great additions in sweet and savory meals. Dialing up the heat can also increase favor. Dry red pepper flakes (quick tip: buy a new one! Chances are the one that’s been in your cabinet for years has lost its mojo), cayenne pepper or fresh diced spicy peppers can spice (and heat!) without the sodium. You can also buy a sodium-free seasoning blend or make your own at home!

Fill up on fiber

Viscous soluble fiber (fun to say isn’t it?) is not only optimal for digestion but it is also fantastic for your heart. Soluble fiber helps to control cholesterol levels and better manage blood sugars levels, which is important for heart health. Start by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables to increase fiber. I start every dinner with a small side salad full of leafy greens and raw veggies. Fiber is often forgotten but a powerful nutrient that helps maintain a healthy weight by keeping you feeling full longer while avoiding energy crashes and curb cravings for high fat/high sugar foods. Sounds pretty good huh?  Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, legumes, fruit and vegetables and binds with cholesterol in the body which helps remove it during digestion. Start increasing fiber into your diet slowly and remember to drink plenty of water. Aim for at least 25g per day!

Choose low-fat dairy:

When choosing milk or dairy products, pick non-fat or low-fat options. Good news, there are plenty of varieties out there like nonfat (skim) and 1% fat milk. Try and avoid whole and 2% milk, full fat yogurts and ice cream. Look for cheeses that are low in saturated fat and sodium such as mozzarella and feta.

Healthy fats

One day fats are good, the next day they are demonized, so what’s the real deal? A nutritious diet does not mean cutting out all fats, just focusing on healthier varieties. Generally, focus on eating 20-25% of your daily calories from fat with fewer than 10% per day coming from saturated fats.

Our heart healthy fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated found in nuts, olive oil, canola oil and avocados. These fats help increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol in our bodies. Swapping out these fats for butter, lard and shortening may help reduce cholesterol in the body. 

Research shows that limiting saturated fat lowers unhealthy cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad” cholesterol, is a waxy substance that can build up and clog blood vessels, which can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. Always avoid trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils which are the biggest culprits in raising your LDL cholesterol!

Here’s the skinny (HA! Get it?), replace foods high in saturated fats with ones higher in unsaturated fats. Look for these terms when purchasing high-fat foods:

Saturated Fat-Free – Less than 0.5 gram saturated fat and less than 0.5 grams trans fat

Low in saturated fat – 1 gram or less saturated fat and no more than 15% calories from saturated fat

Reduced saturated fat – at least 25% less saturated fat and reduced by more than 1 gram of fat

Boost your Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids that may be beneficial not only to brain and nerve health but also in lowering cholesterol levels and supporting heart health. These fatty acids, often referred to by their acronyms ALA, DHA, EPA, cannot be made by the body and need to be consumed from the food we eat. Aim for about 250-500mg combined EPA and DHA daily.

Some great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are:

Fatty Fish – Salmon, herring, sardines. A 3 oz serving has about 1,000mg +

Walnuts – a perfect plant-based source of omega-3, great raw, toasted or try walnut oil on your salad

Flaxseeds – add ground flaxseeds to your morning oatmeal or smoothie for a dose of healthy fats and fiber!

Chia Seeds – a nutrient powerhouse full of omega-3’s, protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals

Hemp Seeds – also high in protein, extra yummy when toasted and added to salads

Power to the Plants: 

Substituting plant protein for animal protein is a great way to reduce your fat and cholesterol levels and to increase your fiber. Plant proteins are naturally low in saturated fat. Making beans, legumes, or peas the focal point of your plate for a hearty dose of protein and fiber.  Fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn is wonderful for your heart. Since fiber stays in the stomach longer than most other foods, you feel fuller longer, which can help you eat less.

Go Nuts:

Nuts are the perfect snack food! They are inexpensive, easy to store, share and frankly, they are delicious! Besides being packed with protein, nuts contain unsaturated fat and a plethora of other heart-boosting nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and plant sterols which can help lower cholesterol! Opt for raw and unsalted varieties and remember that nuts are very calorically dense so portion control is key! Also keep in mind that the nuts you are eating are covered in chocolate, sugar or salt, you are most likely cancelling out all the heart-health benefits.

Green light on Phytonutrients: 

Red wine is good for the heart right? You’re right….well, kind of. The resveratrol, found in grapes is a phytonutrient that is a powerful antioxidant most commonly associated with longevity. Alcohol in moderation (1-2) drinks per day, has been linked to a healthy heart. So what are phytonutrients? Phytonutrients are plant chemical compounds found in plants that contribute to their color, taste and smell. Colorful fruits and vegetables contain thousands of biologically active phytonutrients that play a role in reducing heart disease. The more color to add to your meals, the more heart-healthy phytonutrients are you are eating. “Eating the Rainbow” is a fun and effective way to remember to add phytonutrients to meals. Aim for 4 unique colors on each plate! 

Think Mediterranean:  

Year after year the Mediterranean diet is ranked best overall diet in the annual ranking best the best diets conducted by U.S. News & World Reports. The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. While there is no single definition of the Mediterranean diet, it is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil. 

The main components of Mediterranean lifestyle include:

  • Daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats
  • Weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs
  • Moderate portions of dairy products
  • Limited intake of red meat

Other noteworthy elements of the Mediterranean diet that make it more of a lifestyle than a diet, are sharing meals with family and friends, enjoying a glass of red wine and being physically active.

Get Moving:

Looking beyond food, physical activity can play a huge role in heart health. Adults should get at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week, including muscle strength training activities. Find exercise activities that you enjoy and take pleasure in to keep you motivated and make it less of a “chore”. Being physically active helps to lower blood pressure, manage stress and maintain a healthy weight. 

Whole Grains over Refined: 

Choosing whole grains can improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are loaded with B vitamins, fiber, folic acid, iron, magnesium, selenium and many other nutrients that are lost during the refining process. Some excellent sources of whole grains are oats, whole wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, brown and wild rice. 

Tie on your apron

Convenience and time constraint often lead to pulling out the take out menu, but cooking at home more allows you to control the ingredients used in your meal. At home you are able to limit the amount salt, sugar and saturated fat during the cooking process. If you have children, getting them involved in the cooking process is a great way to expose them to healthy eating habits. Keep a recipe book of your favorite heart-healthy go-to dishes to keep you on track and make it easy. 

Portion distortion:

Another critical focal point to remember is to consider portion sizes. Increased portion sizes means an increase on the scale… Carrying excess body weight means your heart must work harder, and this can lead to high blood pressure – a major cause of heart disease. Many of us suffer from “portion distortion” where our eyes are bigger than our stomach. Think about scooping rice from a pot into your bowl, without measuring you may be giving yourself 2-3 serving sizes instead of one! To adjust your senses, leave measuring cups, measuring spoons and a food scale on your kitchen counter for a week to retrain your eyes by measuring everything. You may be surprised at what an accurate portion size of your favorite food looks like! This may be especially significant when it comes to putting oil in a pan to cook with, your favorite pasta dish or the carton of ice cream. If you are still hungry at the end of a meal, first wait a few minutes to let your hunger and fullness hormones kick in, then fill up on more fruits and vegetables as needed.

When ordering food from a restaurant, portion sizes can often be much more than 1 meals worth. At the time of ordering, also request a to-go box. When your plate comes, immediately put half your plate into a to-go box and put to the side. Then enjoy what is on your plate without worrying about over-eating. Bonus, lunch for tomorrow is taken care of!

Ditch the sugar:

While it tastes so sweet, it is not too sweet to your heart! Eating too much added sugar can lead to weight gain and maintaining a healthy weight is an important factor to having a healthy heart. Sugars can also raise triglyceride levels that puts your heart at risk. To satisfy a sweet craving, opt for a date, piece of fruit or small piece of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa).

Eating healthy for heart health does not have to be confusing! To summarize, include a variety of:

  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains,
  • Unsaturated fat
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Nuts 
  • Legumes
  • Fish, poultry or other plant-based protein 

I hope these tips inspire you to prepare heart healthy food in new and nutritious ways that are both fulfilling and delicious! While making all of these changes at once may seem overwhelming, I recommend starting small and going slowly by making one heart heathy change per week. Switch white rice for brown rice or swap your usual steak dinner for a plant based protein. Each week, add another heart healthy change and continue to build! Starting with small manageable changes helps build long term sustainable success. Your heart works hard to keep you healthy, return the favor by eating fresh, colorful, unprocessed and whole foods!


Spicy Mango Salsa

What do you do when it’s Cinco de Mayo and you have a bunch of ripe mango?? Make salsa! Sweet and spicy and pairs perfectly with chips and beer.

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangos, diced

1-2 habaneros, minced (or jalapenos to tone down the heat)

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

Handful of cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir and enjoy the burn!