In honor of February being American Heart Month, Project Angel Food would like to remind everyone about eating heart healthy meals and how we carry this goal into our kitchen and our clients’ lives.
Now what exactly is American Heart Month? It’s a federally designated event with the first proclamation issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Now in its 58th year, the month highlights heart disease and other related issues.
With Project Angel Food providing more than 2,400 Medically Tailored Meals a day at no cost to our clients living with serious illnesses, it’s important to provide a variety of heart healthy meals, with the goal of never repeating a meal in any 90-day window. Our Associate Director of Nutrition Services and Therapeutics Alyssa Baldino is sharing some of the wisdom and love that we employ with our clients, to offer six tips for American Heart Month so we can make meals a little more friendly for our hearts.
Tip 1: Bake instead of fry. At Project Angel Food, meals are never deep fried and instead are oven baked — one tip Alyssa highly recommends when cooking.
Tip 2: Balance lean meats with lots of veggies and whole grains. Project Angel Food’s Medically Tailored Meals are primarily chicken, turkey, fish and lean cuts of beef and pork, but they are always paired with vegetables and most of the meals contain whole grains. “You can enjoy all of those cuts of meat and especially our meals because they are portioned appropriately and always have vegetables to go along with it,” Alyssa said.
Tip 3: Eat fruits and vegetables. Alyssa said studies consistently show that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables — a key source of fiber that benefits the heart. Her top three best foods for the heart include beans, leafy greens, and apples. Maybe that’s where the expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” comes from.
Tip 4: Embrace healthy fats. We all know that foods high in saturated fats are not good for us. So say goodbye to biscuits, bacon, sausage, and meats like salami, chorizo and that McWhatever, and look for foods providing healthier sources of fat such as avocados, fish, nuts, seeds and olives. For healthier meals, cook with a vegetable-based oils, such as olive and canola oil, instead of butter or lard.
Tip 5: Spice it up…just ditch the salt. Alyssa works closely with the chefs in the Project Angel Food kitchen to make sure our meals are flavorful without a lot of salt. Too much salt causes the body to retain water and that increase in fluid leads to increased blood pressure and ultimately heart disease and failure. A little salt is okay, but research shows Americans consume two to three times the healthy amount. Alyssa suggests herbs such as parsley, cilantro and mint; spices like thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, or oregano; lemon juice or lime; vinegar; or garlic and onion. Or choose one of the many products out there such as Mrs. Dash (which we provide to clients) or MySALT. Click here for a saltless recipe.
Tip 6: Meatless Mondays and Saltless Saturdays. Replacing a meal by doing something like Meatless Mondays has been shown to improve heart health by staving off heart disease and decreasing the chance of developing diabetes. Saltless Saturdays are another great option where a meal is flavored with herbs instead of salt. When we make it fun and a challenge for ourselves and our families, we can start to gradually change our habits and discover new ways of being kinder to our hearts through food. Click here for a meatless recipe.
“When it comes to heart healthy meals,” Alyssa explained, “they can be tasty, savory, and easy to make.” We are all in this together, whether we’re a chronically ill client relying on Project Angel Food’s Medically Tailored Meals to improve our health outcomes, or a volunteer or donor who wants to start focusing on eating in more healthy ways. Alyssa feels these tips can help us all, concluding, “we just want everyone to live long, healthy lives.”