Heart Health for the Whole Family

By Caroline Roessler, MS, RDN

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February is American Heart Month, and it’s a good time for everyone in the family to show their hearts some love!  Whether your health goals are to manage high blood pressure or high cholesterol or to form lifelong healthy habits, there are plenty of foods that the whole family can enjoy to help meet these goals.

Foods that show the biggest benefits for our hearts include choices with fiber and unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids, and low in saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars.  These would include most vegetables and fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, trout or sardines and plant based oils like olive oil.  Minimize those foods high in added sodium or sugars, and high fat dairy products.  Making exercise a part of your daily routine is also important for heart health – make time to take some family walks, or visit one of the beautiful parks around the Richmond area!  

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Here are some delicious ways to show your heart some love this month:

  • Avocado is a yummy source of unsaturated fat and fiber! Spread on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise, add to salads or mix into fresh salsa.  
  • Beans are an excellent source of fiber! Here’s a quick afterschool snack that your kids will love and can make themselves! Using a corn tortilla, sprinkle low-fat cheddar cheese and place your favorite beans – black beans, soy beans, or kidney beans – on top.  Microwave on half power for 30 seconds, or until cheese melts.  Finish with some salsa and avocado for a heart smart snack.
  • Raw, unsalted or lightly salted nuts are a great snack and easy to keep with you during the day.  If nut allergies are a concern, try dry roasted or frozen and shelled soybeans! These choices contain unsaturated fats and fiber.
  • Fresh veggies make a great snack! If you or your little ones crave that “something extra” try making a Ranch flavored dip with 6 oz fat free, plain Greek yogurt and 1-2 tbsp powdered Ranch mix.  Nut butters, low-fat cottage cheese, hummus or guacamole also make great dips!
  • If your children think there is something “fishy” about fish, try making salmon cakes in fun shapes, or tuna or cod fish sticks coated with some whole wheat bread crumbs or crushed Shredded wheat.  Serving these new foods with an old favorite, like homemade sweet potato fries may help your kids to try something new!
  • Replace snacks like potato chips or crackers with baked kale or Swiss chard.  Baking these nutrient rich veggies is easy and fun for the whole family! Wash and dry the leaves very well, then have kids help you tear them in small pieces.  Lightly coat with olive oil and your favorite spices, like garlic, pepper or cumin and bake in the oven at 275͒ and turning halfway, for 15-20 minutes, or until crispy.
  • Give PB& J a new twist! Replace the jelly with your kids’ favorite fresh fruit, like bananas, strawberries or apple slices.  Using a whole wheat wrap works just as well, and is still a source of whole grains.
  • There’s still room for dessert in a diet that supports heart health! Try replacing eggs with ground flaxseed, or oil with applesauce or a mashed up banana in baked goods.   What about a dessert pizza? Bake a whole wheat pizza crust, spread with Greek yogurt or Neufchatel cheese and top with your favorite fruits. You can finish with a slight drizzle of honey if your kids crave something sweeter!

If you have “picky eaters”, try introducing one new food at a time, with foods that your child is familiar with. Picking out foods for the menu and preparing them can also help to familiarize kids with these new options, so make sure to involve the whole family in mealtime.

For more healthy tips, visit MARTIN’S website or call to schedule a consultation with Caroline, or with Valerie Pulley, MARTIN’S in-store nutritionist on Richmond’s West End.

Check out these other great healthy eating tips from MARTIN’S


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Caroline Roessler, MS, RDN

Caroline Roessler, MS, RDN is an in-store nutritionist for MARTIN’S Food Markets’ new Charter Colony location in Midlothian. Her past experience includes working as the pediatric program coordinator for an Ohio University, where she provided nutrition education to children ages pre-K to high school in fun and interactive ways like nutrition festivals and hands-on cooking. She believes that food should be good for us, and taste great too. She is committed to offering practical advice based on up-to-date medical information to help families make sustainable healthy changes to their lifestyle. To get a plan tailored to you, call Caroline at 804-794-7074 to set up a one-on-one consultation.

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