A football fan looks at the world through heart-shaped glasses
Promoting active, healthy hearts during American Heart Month

Nourish your heart

Take heart! Besides being the month of love and friendship, February is also American Heart Month. The best way to take care of your heart is by being physically active and eating a variety of heart healthy foods.

Jump Around!

Remember that your heart is a muscle. If you want it to be strong, you need to exercise it. So, how do you do that? Be active in a way that gets you huffing and puffing, like dancing, jumping rope, or playing basketball.

But being active doesn’t have to happen all at once! Fitting in exercise can be easy when you combine it with other activities.

  • Instead of playing the “While you’re up..." game, get up off the couch and get your own drink or put the movie in yourself. See how many extra steps you can squeeze in each day.
  • Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner, or both. Start with 5-10 minutes and work up to 30 minutes.
  • Stretch to reach items in high places and squat or bend to look at items at floor level. Remember – lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Put your favorite music on while doing household chores. You can dance with your friends, roommates or kids... or by yourself. Time will fly!

Heart Healthy Foods – Mix and Match

Physical activity isn’t the only way to keep your heart healthy; certain foods also help keep your ticker in fine form. Heart healthy foods include those with high fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Some of the healthiest foods for your heart include oatmeal, berries, nuts, spinach, olive oil, fish, avocados, whole grains (such as barley, wild rice, and brown rice), and legumes (such as black beans, kidney beans, and lentils).

Here are some meal suggestions that incorporate a few of each. Can you think of other combinations? Mix and match to your heart’s content!

  • Oatmeal with toasted almonds and berries
  • Spinach cooked with a small amount of olive oil
  • Fish tacos with avocados and tomato salsa

And what could be easier than dumping a few ingredients into the slow cooker and coming back to a meal?

Lentil, Ham, Rice and Barley Soup

  • 1 cup orange lentils
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 small onion, chopped (or 2 Tbsp dehydrated)
  • 3⁄4 cup diced carrots and 1⁄2 cup diced celery
  • 1⁄2 cup barley
  • 1⁄4 cup brown rice
  • 12-16 oz diced low fat ham
  • black pepper to taste

Put everything in the slow cooker. Turn to Low and let it cook all day. Add a small amount of salt (~1/2 to 1 tsp) if you leave out the ham.

Sweet Treats

Strawberry Roll-ups

  • 4 (6-inch) soft tortillas
  • 8 Tablespoons low-fat strawberry cream cheese
  • 1 cup fresh OR frozen and thawed sliced strawberries
  • 8 Tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)

Spread two tablespoons of cream cheese to the edge of each tortilla. Add 1⁄4 cup strawberries to each, spread down the center. Sprinkle two tablespoons almonds onto each tortilla. Fold the edges of the tortilla in, about two inches, and roll the tortilla up.
Slice into 2-inch bites for the perfect Valentine’s Day snack, or serve one whole tortilla for a special Valentine’s Day breakfast!

Oatmeal, Raisin, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies

  • 1 very ripe banana, peeled and mashed
  • 1 cup reduced fat peanut butter
  • 1⁄4 cup white sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup instant oats
  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together mashed banana, peanut butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Then mix in the egg whites. Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon, mix until just blended, then stir in the oats and raisins. Drop cookie dough by heaping spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 18 minutes in the preheated oven. When cookies are done, remove from the baking sheet and cool on wire racks.

This material is adapted from the February 2011 newsletter of Healthy Children, Strong Families, a project of the Department of Family Medicine. For more information, contact Kate Cronin.

View All Features