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Give your fridge a health makeover
Presto, change-o

Heart-smart grocery bags
Heart-smart grocery bags

Now that you know how to restock your refrigerator for heart health, make it happen with a trip to the supermarket. These tips can help:

  • Get whole-grain bread enriched with B vitamins and iron. Look for oatmeal, pumpernickel, rye or whole wheat. Don’t be fooled by advertising double-talk like “split-top wheat.” Accept only 100 percent whole-grain bread.
  • Give fat-free items a try, but remember they may be loaded with calories.
  • Buy “heavy” oranges and grapefruit—they’re meatier and juicier.
  • Look for lean-meat key words such as “USDA Select” (the leanest) or “USDA Choice” (the next leanest). Also look for the words “round” and “loin” on cuts of beef and “loin” and “leg” on cuts of pork.
  • Limit relish, olives, pickles and other garnishes. They’re high in salt.
  • Be sure to buy fruit juice, not fruit drink. “Drink” means very little juice and loads of sugar, water, flavorings and weight-producing empty calories.

When it comes to wellness, we are what we eat. Heart-healthy entrées, side dishes and snacks set the table for vitality because they help us control our weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.

But if our diet is a showcase of calorie-, fat- and sodium-laden meals and snacks at home and fast food on the road, we’re setting ourselves up for a health breakdown that could culminate in a heart attack or a stroke.

Take a look inside your refrigerator. Is a good-food emporium, stocked with nutritious essentials like skim milk, unsaturated oil, fruits, vegetables and soy, perhaps? Or is it a potential minefield of beer, last night’s fettuccine Alfredo, cream-filled doughnuts and your usual morning staples—bacon and eggs?

Presto, change-o

To benefit your heart, food choices must be low in saturated fat, the number-one dietary contributor to cardiovascular disease. And your saturated fat intake shouldn’t exceed 10 percent of your daily calories. What’s more, you should limit salt to about 2,400 milligrams (mg) a day (about a teaspoonful), keep total cholesterol under 300 mg a day and get at least 25 mg of fiber daily from legumes, cereals, vegetables and grains.

Culprit foods in the heart-disease battle include those from animals—primarily meats and whole-milk products—and from certain plant-based oils—coconut, palm and cocoa butter. Evict those and other artery-clogging foods from your icebox and replace them with the foods on this heart-smart guide from the American Heart Association:

  • Fruits: Buy fresh, frozen or canned—but select fresh if you have a choice. Check labels on canned fruits for calories, especially those packed in syrup.
  • Veggies: Again, fresh is best. Frozen or canned are good choices, too, but watch the salt content on canned goods. Avoid sauces and other gimmicks, like flavor pouches—these products usually add fat.
  • Meat, poultry and fish: Enjoy 6 ounces daily of skinless poultry and lean beef, veal, lamb and pork, with all fat trimmed away. Don’t bread fish. Canned tuna and salmon packed in water are excellent low-fat choices.
  • Meat substitutes. Try dried beans, lentils and soybean items like tofu and tempeh.
  • Drinks. Serve orange, grapefruit, apple, prune, apricot or grape juices or low-salt tomato or vegetable juices. Stash a pitcher of cold water in your refrigerator, too.
  • Dairy. Have up to three servings a day of low-fat favorites like low-sodium cottage cheese, mozzarella, ricotta and Neufchâtel, along with yogurt and either skim or 1 percent milk.
  • Fats and oils. Go with unsaturated oils—canola, olive, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, soybean and sunflower. Buy unsalted, low-fat margarine as a substitute for butter and low-fat, low-sodium mayonnaise and salad dressing.
  • Desserts. Enjoy (in moderation) gelatin, cocoa, frozen juice bars, sorbet, sherbet, jelly, jam, preserves, apple butter, maple or cane syrup, honey, molasses or fig bars. Remember to consult your doctor before taking vitamin supplements. And if you’re on medication or have a health condition, ask him or her whether you have any special nutritional needs.