American Heart Month: Tips for Eating a Heart Healthy Diet, Plus Recipes

February 06, 2024
General News & Announcements
6 min read


Fruit and vegetables in the heart shaped bowls

February is American Heart Month, a time when the nation spotlights heart disease, the country’s leading cause of death in both men and women. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one person dies every 33 seconds from heart disease in the United States.

According to the American Heart Association, many instances of heart disease are preventable through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. This includes maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, controlling blood sugar and cholesterol, treating high blood pressure, attending routine visits with your primary care physician, and avoiding the use of cigarettes and alcohol. 
“A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber which all help prevent disease and promote a healthy heart,” said Joeleen Stocker, RD, Manager, Nutrition Services, Mount Nittany Medical Center.

Focusing on a heart healthy diet is a great first step in lowering your risk of heart disease. Please consider the following tips:

  • Eat more and fruits and vegetables, which are low in calories but rich in dietary fiber. As an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, many contain substances that help prevent heart disease. To make eating fruits and vegetables easier, keep them washed and cut in your refrigerator for a quick snack, and consider recipes where they are the main ingredients.
  • Choose whole grains over refined grain products. These include whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, and oatmeal.
  • Limit unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) to reduce blood cholesterol and lower the risk of coronary artery disease. Simple ways to cut back on unhealthy fats include trimming fat off meat and opting for lean meats with less than 10% fat. Additionally, use less butter, margarine and shortening when cooking and baking, and try substituting with olive oil or avocado oil instead.
  • Select low-fat protein sources like lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs. Certain types of fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. Other sources of low-fat protein include flaxseed, walnuts, and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils).
  • Limit or reduce sodium intake to keep high blood pressure – a risk factor for heart disease – at bay. Be especially mindful of the sodium in processed foods, such as condiments, soups, baked goods, and frozen meals. Making these items from scratch is one way to reduce sodium intake. Other ways include the use of herbs, spices, salt-free seasoning blends, and canned items with no added salt or reduced salt.
  • Manage portion sizes by using a smaller plate or by measuring your servings with a measuring cup or kitchen scale. After plating, promptly store and put away your leftovers.
  • Plan your meals ahead of time to limit the temptation to grab less healthy options or order takeout for the sake of convenience.
  • Allow yourself the occasional treat to remain satisfied while still meeting your goals.


Western Mug Omelet
Serves 1

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 2-3 minutes

Total Time: 7-8 minutes
  • Cooking spray
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons liquid egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons shredded lite low-fat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
  1. Combine the ingredients in a microwave-safe mug lightly coated with cooking spray.
  1. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir the mixture.
  2. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked through.
Slow Cooker Avocado Lime Chicken Soup
Serves 10 – ¾ cup per serving
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours on high   or 6 hours on low

Total Time: 3 hours and 10 minutes or 6 hours and 10 minutes

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat discarded
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup jarred salsa verde
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tsp. jarred garlic
  • 1 medium fresh avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped
  • 2 green onions (about ¼ cup), sliced on a diagonal
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  1. Season the chicken with chili powder and cumin. Place in a slow cooker. 
  2. Add the broth, salsa verde, ginger and garlic. Cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 
  3. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Using two forks, shred the chicken. 
  4. Return the chicken to the slow cooker. Stir in the avocado, green onions, cilantro and lime juice. 
Sheet Pan Rosemary Balsamic Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 4 – 3 oz. cooked chicken plus ½ cups potatoes and broccoli per serving
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
  • ¼ cup soybean oil margarine spread
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 4-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, all visible fat discarded
  • 12 oz. baby red potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 heaping cups)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced (optional)
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets (about 4 cups)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with shallow sides with aluminum foil.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the margarine spread, mustard, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the balsamic vinegar until blended.
  3. Spread 2 tbsp. of the mixture over the chicken. Toss the potatoes and onion if desired with the 2 tbsp. until evenly coated. Toss the broccoli with the remaining 2 tablespoons mixture until evenly coated.
  4. Place the chicken, potatoes, and broccoli on the baking sheet. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (no longer pink in the center and registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer) and vegetables are tender.
  5. Transfer the chicken, potatoes and broccoli to a serving platter. Drizzle with any pan juices.

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