Heart Healthy Grocery Shopping

Your heart health starts right at home! What you have in your fridge and pantry will help ensure you stay healthy and keep your heart happy. Going into a grocery store can be overwhelming without understanding what to buy, that’s why we have some tips that you can use to make your next shopping list.

Tip #1: Start with the perimeter! Most grocery stores surround their store with its fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats. This will ensure you are eating more fresh foods and less processed foods. The more fruits and vegetables the better! When choosing dairy products, make sure to choose skim milk and low fat yogurts and cheeses. Always choose leans meats chicken and turkey and eat red meats in moderation. Fish is a great source of Omega-3’s, which can beneficial for improving your heart health.

Tip #2: The nutrition facts label is your best friend! Use it to avoid products that are high in fat, especially saturated and trans-fatty acids. These fats increase your bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increase your risk of a heart attack and stroke. In addition to that, avoid products with cholesterol and sodium. A general rule is to choose products that have less than 5% of the daily value of all the above. Obviously 0% is the best! Choose products that are high (20% of the daily value) in vitamins and mineral as well as fiber, which can help lower your cholesterol.

Tip #3: Choose foods with the Heart check mark! This is the official symbol that the American Heart Association uses on products that are certified heart healthy that can be found on packaged foods. But if the heart check mark is not there make sure to read the nutrition label!

Tip #4: Prepare before you go shopping! Have you ever been to grocery store hungry? This makes you want to buy everything that you are craving. Make sure to go shopping after eating a meal or a snack. Also make sure to go to the grocery store prepared with a list of items that you know are heart healthy. You can find heart healthy recipes online to help you come up with the list of items you might need.

Following these few tips will help you fill your cart with heart healthy foods and leave no space for the other junk. Happy shopping!

Written By guest blogger Maryam Mahmood, Dietetic Intern from Oklahoma State University

How to Read a Food Label

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how important it is to check food labels while you are grocery shopping. That got me thinking that maybe I should write a blog post on how to actually read a food label. So I enlisted a little help from an intern. Today Catherine is guest blogging for us. Catherine is a dietetic intern at OSU, she has already finished her master’s degree and just has a few weeks of shadowing left before she is completely done. I hope you enjoy her blog post on food labels!

Food Label

  1. Start with the serving size. This tells you how much (grams, cups, ounces, etc) food/beverage there is for the number of calories, fats, protein, and nutrients listed. Paying attention to the serving size and how many servings there are per container is important. Many food packages contain more than one serving, so consuming the entire bag/package may mean eating 3-5 times the calories and nutrients listed on the label.
  2. Check calories. Calories are an indicator of energy. People are different sizes and therefore need different amounts of energy to fuel their body. The average number of calories a person needs per day is approximately 2000. However this ranges for how tall a person is and how much they weigh. A shorter person will need less energy than a tall person, etc. Next to Calories, is ‘calories from fat,’ which is an indication of how many of the total calories, come from fat. In the example listed above, 110 calories come from fat, which is almost 50%. A serving containing less than 40 calories is considered low, around 100 calories is moderate, and greater than 400 calories is high. Eating more calories than your body needs can lead to weight gain and obesity. To find out how many calories you need in a day click on this link http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories.html.
  3. Limit these nutrients. Total fat, cholesterol, and sodium when consumed in high amounts can have negative effects on your health. These in excess are linked to heart disease, and high blood pressure. The recommendation for total fat intake is approximately 20-30% of a person’s diet, so if you need 2000 calories, total calories that come from fat would be about 400-600 calories or 44-66 grams of fat per day.
  4. Get enough of these nutrients. Fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron, are important nutrients to maintain good health. Fiber promotes healthy bowel functions and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains that contain soluble fiber, may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  5. The footnote at the bottom of the label explains the Percent Daily Value of the nutrients recommended for all Americans. When this is listed on the food label, it will always be the same and does not change from product to product. These can be used as references (see #6) to see how much the certain food product contributes to meeting those recommendations.
  6. The Percent Daily Value (%DV) helps you determine if a serving is high or low in a nutrient. For example this label shows that one serving of Mac and Cheese contributes to 18% of total fat intake for a person who needs 200 calories. A good guide to %DV is that 5%DV is considered low for all nutrients and greater than 20%DV is considered high for all nutrients.

Remember that the nutrition label can help you limit the nutrients you want to cut back on but can also help you increase the nutrients you want to consume in greater amounts.

For more information please visit http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm274593.htm.

Stretch Your Food Dollars – 6 Foods to Buy When Money is Tight

Whether you are a college student trying to live off Ramen noodles, a single mom trying to make ends meet, or a father of four who is just having a tough month, most of us at some point in our lives have been a little tight on food dollars. I recently saw a U.S. News & World Report article titled “7 Foods to Buy When You’re Broke“. I get asked to teach a lot of lessons on stretching your monthly food dollars and thought these tips would fit in great with my lessons. I decided to put my own little spin on it though.

Here is my list (some of which are the same):

1. Peanut Butter: I have to agree with the original article on this one. If there is one protein source that I am constantly recommending to people on a budget it is peanut butter. Not only does peanut butter have all the health attributes mentioned in the U.S. News article but it is also very shelf stable. If you keep it in your refrigerator it will stay good for up to 6 months. Eat it as a snack with fruit or have a peanut butter sandwich for a meal.

2. Beans: Like the original article, the second protein source I will always recommend to those on a budget is beans. Dried or canned. While eating vegetarian may not always be your family’s first choice, it is definitely a great economical choice to get you through a tight time. Add beans to a soup, chili, eat them with brown rice, rolled up in a tortilla, the options are really unlimited. Throw some dried beans in the crock pot with herbs and spices and you have an easy meal prepared when you get home in the evening.

3. Whole Grain Bread: Bread is a staple in most American kitchens and don’t feel like you have to give it up if money is tight. I think it is a good purchase because it is very versatile. I would simply recommend switching to whole grain breads. Whole grain bread is more nutritionally dense than white bread, meaning it contains more vitamins and minerals. But most importantly whole grain bread is higher in fiber than white bread, and fiber keeps you filling full longer (something very important when meals are limited).

4. Frozen Fruits & Veggies: Frozen produce is almost always more affordable than fresh, especially if you are wanting to purchase something that is out of season. Contrary to what many people believe frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh. The original article just mentions frozen veggies but I would throw fruit in there also. The more color you are getting on your plate the better!

5. Canned Fruits & Veggies: Canned produce (just like frozen) is often misunderstood and thought to be less nutritious, but this is not the case. Canned fruits and veggies contain the same vitamin and minerals as fresh (and frozen) and are often times half to one-third the price of fresh produce. If you are worried about the extra sodium in canned foods you can simply use a colander and rinse them off before consuming. Another great attribute of canned produce is it will last a lot longer on your shelf than fresh.

6. Milk: While milk may be one of the more expensive items on this list it is a product that is always worth spending on. Milk contains 9 essential vitamins and minerals (including calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D) that are vital to a growing kid and important for adults too. Remember that the date on a carton of milk is the “Sell By Date” not the expiration date; so your milk is still safe to drink for a few days after. If you see a good price on milk remember you can also freeze extra cartons for up to a year.

This is my take on foods to buy when money is tight. And the great thing is you can actually make all these items fit into a healthy MyPlate diet.

These are my recommendations, do you have any foods you would add or change?