February is American Heart Month – which brings awareness to cardiovascular diseases. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Your genes can predispose you to be susceptible to heart disease, but a large determining factor that you do have some control over is your diet. Many Americans still depend on them because of their convenience – especially seniors.
Up until the late 1990’s and into the 2000’s, it was not widely known just how bad these things were for us. This contributed to unhealthy habits that some seniors still adhere to today. We are aware it is hard to break a habit, but here are some senior-friendly, heart-healthy options you can find at your grocery store.
BUY FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and full of all the right stuff. Whether it is vitamins, minerals or fiber, both are nutrient dense. An easy rule of thumb to follow is to buy one thing from each color of the rainbow. Your cart should be very colorful by the end of your trip! Many fruits and vegetables can be consumed raw after being washed, like berries, carrots, broccoli, and lettuce. If you prefer cooked vegetables, but don't like to cook. be sure to visit your frozen section to find steamer bags full of options. Just be sure to avoid any that have sauces or cheese included!
AVOID “FAT-FREE” FOODS
Unless something is naturally fat-free, like vegetables, do not buy into the gimmick on the label. What "Fat-Free" butter is not telling you is that it is full of chemicals and other things that may be worse for you than the fat! A good perspective to maintain is that if a type of food does not seem like it should be fat-free, it probably is not.
SKIP THE RED MEAT
Red meat is extremely high in fat and can be detrimental to your heart. Stick with leaner, white meats like chicken and fish. If you must eat red meat, make sure to select the leanest options. Trim visible fats from steaks or opt for leaner quality ground beef.
LOSE THE FREEZER MEALS
Frozen entrée meals are notoriously high in sodium, which helps preserve freshness and makes it tastier. If you like the convenience of having a meal you can just reheat in the microwave, cook extra servings when preparing meals and freeze them in pre-portioned containers. That way, on a day you are not feeling up to cooking, you will have a healthy meal with minimal effort.
TOSS THE DAIRY
Dairy is extremely high in fats. In fact, 2% milk has the same fat content as bacon! For anyone with high blood cholesterol, this is not a good option. Try making small adjustments to move away from dairy to alternatives such as almond or coconut milk. A simple way to incorporate this change in small steps is to begin substituting it in your coffee in the morning.
Do not feel discouraged if these feel like overwhelming changes. It is never too late to get started eating healthy, and these heart-healthy suggestions are good for everyone, not just seniors.
At Franklin Park Senior Living communities, we accommodate our resident's dietary needs for every meal. Start by finding your local Franklin Park community, call to schedule a tour, and ask about having lunch as our treat!