How to Keep Your Heart Healthy….It’s not as hard as you think: Part 1

grapesI know, I know…. you’re too young to worry about a disease that happens to “old” people, right? Not true.

Most of us are born with a healthy heart.  That’s good news because it means we just have to keep it healthy. Heart disease can affect anyone at any age. Ask yourself the following questions and see how you can improve your heart health.

Do you find yourself snacking all day instead of having regular meals?

A lot of busy people find themselves snacking or grazing all day instead of having a few healthy snacks in between regular meals. Many “easy to grab” snacks such as chips and cookies are not actually nutritious and have a lot of empty calories. Empty calories are calories that don’t have many nutrients such as soda or cookies. A better snack choice for your heart is fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains with a protein such as peanut butter, yogurt, or string cheese. Plan to have a snack in between breakfast and lunch and then another between lunch and dinner.

Do you stop at fast food restaurants because you’re always on the go?

Drive-thrus and fast food restaurants are popular because service is quick and the food is often affordable but fast food is often high in saturated fat which is not good for your heart.  So what can you do? Well, it turns out it’s not that hard to make some healthy changes that will help keep your heart healthy. When you go to fast food restaurants look at the nutrition guide for the foods on the menu which is usually posted near the counter where you place your order. Many fast food establishments have a paper copy for guests with all the menu items and nutrition information ─ just ask for a copy. You can keep it in either your car or the family car for times when you are on the go and use the drive thru. Your goal should be to swap menu items that have a lot of saturated fat (such as fried food), for items with less saturated fat, such as grilled chicken. Also opt for whole grains which have more nutrients than white bread. An example would be to choose a grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain or wheat bread instead of a hamburger on a bun make with white flour.  Fries are awesome but consider substituting a salad instead. No way?  Then make your fry “small” instead of large. Choose water instead of soda. The calories in soda add up quickly! If you must have soda, try diet instead.

Keeping your heart healthy takes a little planning but it is totally doable. Many health snacks are portable and for those snacks that need to be kept cold such as yogurt, you can use a small portable freezer pack when you are on the go.

To learn some more tips, check out The Center for Young Women’s Health guides on Healthy Eating and Healthy Snacks.