Happy National World Heart Day!

World Heart Day informs people around the globe that CVD, including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death claiming 17.9 million lives each year, and highlights the actions that individuals can take to prevent and control CVD. Meal prepping is a way to ensure you stay on track with your nutritional goals, so you can skip the drive-thru lines and rest assured you are staying within your sodium limits. One downside is the time commitment that meal prepping ensues. Below are tips and tricks for successful meal planning while following a heart healthy diet!

Sneaky Sodium

The recommended sodium intake is no more than 2,300 mg/day, but 1,500 mg/day is ideal for heart health. 

  • Sodium can hide in meats like sausage, bacon, ham, lunch meats, and hot dogs. Make sure to read the package when selecting cured meats, but fresh is best.
  • Sodium can also be found in highly processed cheese, like American cheese, so opt for Mozzarella or Swiss.
  • Beware of high sodium levels in prepared salad dressings, if there’s a low sodium option choose that one, or make your own.
  • Salt is hidden in some grains like tortillas and hamburger buns, try adding a lettuce wrap or portobello mushroom when grilling out.
  • Stay away from flavoring packets, play around with fresh herbs to season your meals and stick within your sodium goals.
  • Sodium is found in high amounts in prepared, pre-packaged, and frozen meals so try to stick to your meal prepping goals too!

Meal Prep Essentials

Below are panty, refrigerator, freezer and cabinet essentials for meal prepping.

  • ‘Dinner builder items’: beans such as black beans, kidney beans, and navy beans; low-sodium canned tuna; salmon and chicken; low-sodium or fresh marinara sauce.
  • Canned vegetables: green beans, peas, carrots, and corn are great for quick side dishes, or to add color to soups and casseroles.
  • Whole grains: brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole wheat bread, whole wheat noodles, and whole grain flour are also quick heart-healthy side dishes.
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts: Brazilian, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios all have essential fatty acids for heart health.
  • Broth: choose low sodium or salt-free chicken, beef, or vegetables broth for soups and sauces.
  • Dried herbs and spices: cinnamon, basil, rosemary, oregano, cumin, and garlic powder are great starters for learning how to season without salt.
  • Proteins: fish fillets, skinless chicken, tofu, and extra lean meats are compliant with the Mediterranean diet.
  • Frozen fruit and vegetables: all the quality and flavor of fresh produce, but they last longer!

Grocery Store Guidelines

  • Go to the grocery store prepared, make a list and stick to it. Plan your menu a week in advance to avoid purchasing items you don’t need or may spoil.
  • Shop the outer aisles of the store first. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, lean meats, dairy, frozen produce, and grains can usually be found here! Don’t skip the middle aisles though, that’s where you will find things like nuts and olive oil.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts Label if you are unfamiliar with a product. Look for the heart check mark, as those items are compliant with the American Heart Association’s requirements for heart healthy food.
  • When buying whole grain products, make sure whole grain is the first item listed in the ingredients section.
  • When buying canned tuna and meat, look for “packed in water” instead of oils or sauce. If there’s a no salt or low-sodium option, go for that one.
  • Don’t shop hungry! This can lead to over-purchasing or impulse buying.

A cheat sheet on salt from the American Heart Association:

Written by: Olivia Reagan, Fontbonne Dietetic Intern 

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