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The Easy Way to Shift to a Heart-Healthy Diet

Happy senior woman and her daughter prepping a healthy meal together

As you age, one of the most important actions you can take to help ensure good health is to give your heart the best care possible. Research shows that following a heart-healthy diet and making healthier lifestyle choices may reduce your risk of stroke or heart disease by as much as 80%.

This is not to say you have to always deny yourself “the good stuff” we all love to indulge in. It does mean choosing foods like French fries, pies, and pizza less often than you may do now. That said, let’s take a look at what makes up a heart-healthy diet plan and why it’s so important for senior nutrition and good health going forward.

 

The Building Blocks of a Heart-Healthy Diet

Whether you cook your own meals or go to a restaurant, it’s easier to stick to a heart-healthy diet than you might think. And if you live in a retirement community like Monroe Village in Monroe Township, New Jersey, the daily menus are created with heart health in mind. From serving size to selection to reduced sodium, you can always feel good about dining here.

So, what does a heart-healthy diet look like? The easiest way to think about it is to picture a dinner plate divided into the following portions:

50%–Vegetables (fresh or frozen, cooked with vegetable oils (olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut) followed by fruits (the deeper the color, the higher the nutritional value)

  • 25%–Whole grains (whole wheat, barley, wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pastas)
  • 25%–Lean protein (fish, poultry, beans, nuts)

Other healthy choices:

Healthy fats–Think avocados, olive oil, flax seeds, raw nuts, and fish oils.

  • Low-fat dairy– Think unsweetened low-fat yogurt or skim milk.
  • High fiber–Look for whole-grain or veggie-based pastas, breads, or cereals. 
  • Eggs–Eat any way  you like, but avoid added butter or salt.
  • Dark chocolate–Yes, you can–just be sure it’s at least 70% cocoa. 

 

Eat the Fun Stuff in Moderation

Notice that some of your favorite foods are missing from the suggestions above? There’s no  need to scrap them totally. Just remember to eat them far less often and in moderation to avoid “bad” fats, too much salt and sugar, and the mystery chemicals and artificial ingredients they often contain. Here’s a list of the “baddies” to ease up on:

Deep-fried foods

  • Snack foods and fast food
  • Refined carbs (white breads, refined pastas, white rice, and sugary cereals)
  • Packaged foods, particularly those high in sugar or sodium
  • Processed meats, such as lunch meats, salami, sausage, and bacon
  • Processed cheeses
  • High-fat dairy products and red meat
  • Butter and lard

Heart-Healthy Cooking Secrets to Try

Doctors and nutrition experts are always singing the praises of small diet changes that make a big difference to heart health. But how do you keep those heart-healthy basics from tasting boring and bland? We’ve pulled together a few secrets that aren’t only heart-smart; they’ll also make your food taste great:

Experiment with seasoning–Try low-sodium soy sauce, vinegar, onion, citrus, herbs, or garlic for extra flavor.
Try sautéing instead of frying–Toss veggies and whole grains in a pan with a bit of sesame oil, olive oil, wine, or broth.
Make it marinated–Marinate lean proteins in olive oil and spices before cooking to boost the flavor and keep them tender and moist.
Invent a rub–Mix together favorite seasonings and rub on lean protein before roasting.

 Play with poaching–Chicken stock, vegetable stock, and lemon juice make flavorful poaching liquids.
Replace the water–Cook whole-grain rice or pasta in chicken, beef, or vegetable stock for extra flavor.
Lose the sugar–Try topping fruit with nutmeg, clove, or cinnamon instead.

 

Here’s to Your Healthy New Life

 At Monroe Village, we believe that healthy eating plays a key part in whole-person wellness. Our chef is committed to preparing a daily menu that’s not only delicious but wonderfully heart- healthy. Because that’s what our residents deserve. It’s all part of our LivWell philosophy. If you’d like to learn more about the good life you could be living in our senior community, we hope you’ll schedule a visit soon!

Need information? Check our resources.

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