Wednesday, February 15, 2017

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Love Foods that Love Your Heart

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."  

                                               --Helen Keller

February is American Heart Month.  Hence, all of the Wellness Wednesdays articles this month are devoted to heart health.  You know by now, as a reader of Wellness Wednesdays, that my focus is prevention of disease and promotion of health. Inspiring and empowering parents to raise healthy kids is why we are focusing this month on the topic of heart health. 

Heart Month 2017
Have a heart-to-heart talk with your loved ones.  
Preventing heart disease is very personal for me.  In my family, heart disease has been the number one cause of death. High blood pressure runs in my family. So does high cholesterol.  One in 3 Americans has high blood pressure. Having a family history of heart disease increases one’s own risks which is why prevention is key.  If you have an opportunity to reduce your risk and improve your health outcomes, then taking advantage of that opportunity seems quite logical to me. 

Parents want help to encourage healthy eating habits among their children. When kids are fed processed foods containing added sugars and salt, their hearts are not going to be happy or healthy.  

Where to begin? 

Start by reading food labels and looking for the hidden sugars.   Eliminate foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.  Identify ingredients that end in “-ose” (sugars) and “-tol” (sugar alcohols, often used in “diet” foods.  Eating foods high in sugar alcohols causes gastric distress and diarrhea.  Not what any middle school student needs or wants.

Doctor taking woman's blood pressure

Next, read food labels and look for the salt content.  Nearly all Americans consume too much salt. Most processed foods are high in either sugar, salt or fat.  If they are low on one, then they will be high on another.  For example, “low fat” foods often contain higher amounts of added sugars or salt so that the taste is still addictive to the palate.  The guideline for sodium is less than 2,300 mg a day (for ages 14 and up).  For kids less than age 14, the recommendation is lower.  Just one quarter-pounder with cheese from McDonald's has 1,100 mg of sodium.  Ten chicken McNuggets from McDonald's contain 905 mg of sodium.  The hidden salt in processed and ultraprocessed foods are increasing the chances that America's kids will develop high blood pressure, increasing their risk for an early diagnosis of heart disease or diabetes.
Cook meals at home.  The more you cook, the less processed foods you will consume.  The more you cook, the less added sugars your children will eat. 

Image result for lentils
Lentils are one of my favorite healthy heart ingredients.  If you can boil water, you can cook lentils.  They are easy to cook, very inexpensive, and very versatile.  They are high in dietary fiber, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and vitamin B-6.  Start using them once a week-your heart will love it!  Cook the following lentil recipe with your children.

GROWING HEALTHY KIDS:  Our Recipe Collection
Lentil Salad with Walnuts

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:

  • 1 cup green lentils (rinsed and cleaned)
  • 3 cups water
Then cover, turn down to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. 
In a blender or food processor, combine:

  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Add to the shallot mixture:

  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Process until well blended. 
When lentils are tender, drain well and transfer to a serving bowl.  Add:

  • ½ cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
Add enough dressing to coat and toss gently to combine.  Serve warm. 

Learn more about heart disease.  Provide your children with good foods and regular exercise to help prevent it.  

To take the heart disease quiz, go to or click here.

Make YOUR life a great adventure!  

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.