February is Heart Health Month

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Reduce highly processed for a healthy heart

by Marie Traynor, Registered Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist, LG&L District Health Unit   

Limit highly processed foods, or replace them with healthier options, to get a very positive effect on heart health and, really, overall health. These are foods and drinks with excess sodium (salt), sugars or saturated fat. Examples include sugary drinks and treats, fast food like fries and frozen dinners, and processed meats like sausages and deli meats. 

It takes an effort to limit highly processed foods, because they are all around us. Some ideas include replacing sugary drinks with water, using leftover baked chicken instead of deli meats, and steel-cut oats instead of sweetened instant oats

Try making homemade versions of your favourites, or make your own frozen dinners by choosing a healthy recipe and labeling/freezing it in meal-sized portions. Stock up on healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, carrots or hard-boiled eggs, and limit the use of highly processed spreads and dressings in your meals and snacks

Use the nutrition facts table and the Daily Value or DV to compare food products that come in a box, package, can or bottle. Choose those that are lower in sodium, sugars or saturated fat. 5% or less DV means a little, and 15% or more DV means a lot. 

Some processed foods can be good choices. Think of the pasteurization process that can help create a safe and convenient food supply. Or processing, such as drying, canning, and freezing that can help preserve food and retain nutrients. 

Check out the Shopper’s Guide and Best Buys found in the Healthy Eating section at healthunit.org, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, or call 1-800-660-5853.

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