Presented by

Eating for a healthy heart

A nutritionist from University of Maryland Medical System regularly provides a post to the Picture of Health blog. The latest post is from Caroline Meehan.

February marks American Heart Month, so show some love for yourself by incorporating heart-healthy foods into your daily routine.


The basics of a heart healthy diet:

1. Choose whole grains, such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread and oatmeal. Unlike refined grains, whole grains naturally contain heart-healthy components like, B vitamins and fiber.


2. Eat lean, healthy proteins, such as baked chicken, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, and dairy. Try to incorporate meatless meals into your diet as well. Chickpeas, for example, are a vegetarian source of protein that boasts many benefits, including fiber, iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium.

3. Incorporate colorful fruits and vegetables, such as kales, beets, carrots, and oranges, into your meal plan every day.

4. Skip the sugary beverages and drink water instead.

5. Enjoy heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, flaxseed, avocado, and walnuts. These fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats.

6. Season food with spices, herbs, citrus, and vinegars rather than added salt, gravies, and sauces. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans consume less than 2300 mg of sodium per day (which is equivalent to a teaspoon of salt).

7. Limit your intake of added sugar and fried foods. Be extra cautious around desserts, candy and sugary beverages. Both sugar and fried foods can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Heart-healthy, pink and red themed foods:

-Rather than pink and red candies, choose pink and red produce such as raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, watermelon, red peppers, red onion and tomatoes.


-Swap out milk chocolate for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, which is good for the heart. Choose a chocolate with at as least 70% cocoa.

-For a special beverage without added sugar, try making an "infused water". Fill a pitcher with water, ice and berries. Let sit overnight so the flavors infuse. Berries get their pigment from a flavonoid called anthocyanin, which was shown to reduce the risk for a heart attack in The Nurses' Health Study II.

-Make a pink smoothie! Blend a handful of red berries, 1/2 of a banana, 6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt, 8-12 ounces of almond milk and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds until smooth. Add additional water if the consistency is too thick.

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

A heart healthy sample menu:

Breakfast: 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt topped with 2-3 tablespoons crunchy whole grain granola or cereal and 1/4-1/2 cup red berries.

Lunch: 3 cups of baby spinach topped with 1/3 cup chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon raisins, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, & 1/2 cup halved red grapes. Toss in an olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette (2 tablespoons of oil to 1 tablespoon of vinegar). Add a side of whole grain crackers.


Dinner: 3 ounce baked salmon with lemon and fresh dill, paired with ½ cup cooked brown rice flavored with lemon juice, spices or herbs, and sautéed kale and red cabbage.

Keep in mind: cooking an elegant dinner can be just as special as going out to eat. Create a relaxing, pleasant atmosphere with fresh flowers, soft jazz, and low lighting.

Dessert: Baked apple with cinnamon and oatmeal or dark chocolate covered strawberries.

Not a fan of measuring food? Aim for a 1/2 plate of vegetables (size of hand), a 1/4 plate of protein (size of palm), and a 1/4 of plate of whole grains (size of fist).