American Heart Month

If I were to ask you what month is associated with hearts, you would likely say February.

And you were probably thinking red roses and chocolates… not heart disease, right?

Well February is National Heart Month. This is to raise awareness of the prevalence of cardiovascular disease here in America, which is the #1 killer of both men and women in the country.

Though many of us are predisposed to developing various cardiovascular diseases simply by genetics, prevention is possible with lifestyle modifications.

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Many factors play a role in the prevention of heart disease, but my favorite (obviously) is good nutrition. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a start! Small changes to your favorite foods can add up and make a big difference.

One of my favorite foods is pasta with meat sauce. How do I make it heart healthy?

1) Instead of beef, I use lean turkey to cut saturated fat and cholesterol

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2) Adding fresh spinach gives me a punch of antioxidants and vitamin K

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3) I definitely check labels for a low sodium marinara sauce, or I make it homemade!

4) Typically I use whole grain pasta… or maybe a box of heart-shaped pasta, because those must be heart-healthy, right?

heart5) And then for dessert, maybe some dark chocolate, because Cleveland Clinical says it’s okay. Or I’ll dip into the giant pile of Valentine’s candy that both my mom and my boyfriend’s mom sent (on the same day). I would never…

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Want to know more about heart health? Check out the American Heart Association at Heart.org

*Disclaimer: Dipping into a giant pile of candy is not heart healthy.

Numbers

Let’s talk numbers, shall we?

When it comes to nutrition, numbers find their way into the conversation quite often. Calories, grams, pounds, ounces, cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, percents, RAH! It’s enough to make you kinda crazy.

I’m here to tell you to stop thinking numerically.

Just stop it.

No seriously. Stop the mental adding and subtracting, the daily weighing, the measuring, everything.

 

Likely story is that, one day, you decided to become more aware of what you were eating and what you were weighing, and to find that out, you resorted to numbers. How many calories did you need and what did that mean for grams of fat, carbs and protein? And how much of that came from this cereal? And how much cereal could I eat to get that number? But if I wanted to eat a snack after then what could I eat for this many calories? And then how many calories do I have left for the day? And what do I weigh in the morning, and then at night?

Does your brain hurt yet?

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If you still have that reel of questions in your mind, I don’t doubt that you’re a little tired from all the number-crunching.

As an almost-dietitian, I’m required to think like that, it’s my job. But when it comes to my own food and my own body, I turn the numbers off entirely. Why? For my sanity, my peace of mind.

Because I know from practice how much food my body needs, and how I feel when I’m at my “happy weight” and what a cup of pasta looks like on my plate. And if you already know these things, then why burden your mind with the constant scrolling of numbers?

 

If you are just starting out on a journey to bettering your health and eating habits, then yes, inevitably you will be looking at numbers at first. But once you develop healthy habits, then forget the numbers and go for practicality. Go based on experience. Maybe the calculation told you that you only need 1500 calories a day to maintain your weight, but only you truly know your energy requirements. It may take time and a little trial and error, but trust me when I say it is so much better than killing yourself with the calculator.

And if you are convinced that you need to keep track of the numbers, consult a dietitian. It is what they are legally trained and qualified to do, so that you can breathe and know that you are in good hands.

 

Being consumed by numbers is no way to live, I know that from experience.

Instead, practice mindful-eating.

Savor your food, savor every bite. Enjoy the fresh, crunchy lettuce as much as the smooth and sweet chocolate.

It takes practice, and it may not be easy at first, but it will be worth it. Soon the numbers will fade, and your sanity will return. You’ll be amazed at how much brain power is freed by simply letting go.

 

Do you count calories?

Tuesday Topic: Healthy Holidays

Hello my beautiful blog people!

I’m unhappy to report that I did, in fact, fall ill to a nasty little bug. My voice has been nonexistent since Saturday morning, which I originally thought was a result of too many drinks the night before, but I’ve developed a cough as well.

Unfortunately for me, one of my December goals was to stay healthy! Booooo. But in my defense, I have been really good about washing my hands and taking extra vitamin C! It just snuck up on me.

Because of this, I thought maybe it was a good time to share a few ways to take care of yourself this holiday season. Some of the tips are geared more toward staying healthy and fit rather than left feeling as bloated as a snowman, but there are a few for taking care of your overall health as well.

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1) Exercise regularly

Try to do something active every day, even if it’s as simple as a yoga podcast, walking the dog or shoveling the driveway (or washing the car if you’re in a not-so-snowy place). It will help you feel good and keep your metabolism in check.

2) Indulge, but consciously

‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, but don’t obsess over what you should and shouldn’t have. Have the things you really enjoy, but only take one serving and then move on.

3) Choose healthy foods as much as possible

Whether you’re at a holiday party or just having lunch the day after Christmas, try to fill your plate with mostly fruits and veggies at every meal, and don’t snack on cookies or leftovers just because they’re in the house.

4) Wash your hands

The single most effective way to prevent the spread of germs is sudsing your hands often! It’s also not a bad idea to carry mini-hand sanitizer around with you.

5) Take “me” time

Through all the gift giving and reconnecting with family and friends, don’t forget about yourself during the holidays. Carve out time each day to do something by yourself, like taking a bath or doing your nails… even if it just means taking the long way home.mani

6) Sleep!!

Especially if you are lucky enough to have time off from work or school around the holidays, do yourself a favor and forgo the alarm as much as possible. Your immune system and your sanity will thank you.

7) Drink fluids, mostly water

WebMD does a pretty good job at explaining the benefits of drinking water, but specifically around the holidays when your lifestyle is a little out of whack, it couldn’t hurt to be a bit more conscious of your fluid intake.tea

8) Wear form-fitting clothes to parties

Eating a couple of cookies or having a few glasses of wine won’t show, but seconds and thirds at a holiday feast might. Wearing an outfit that flaunts your assets gives you a higher awareness of just how much you’re eating and drinking.

9) Put a cork in social media

Holidays are a time of joy and happiness, and while it’s nice to share a bit on Facebook and Twitter, it is easy to fall victim to the comparison trap in those situations. Enjoy your holiday and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.

10) Focus on the holiday

If you find yourself counting the calories of all the sugar plums dancing in your head, take a step back, breathe, and remember the real reason for all of the celebrating. It’s important to remember that food is just one part of the celebration.

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What are tips you go by to stay healthy during the holiday season?