If home is where the heart is, shouldn’t every home be heart healthy? Easier said than done in U.S. homes today, where:
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- Processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods are readily available
- Sedentary activities, such as TV watching and computer use, take time away from physical activities
That’s a problem, since a low-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber diet and regular exercise are the foundations of heart health, say Cindy Schultz and Lee Anne Siegmund, PhD, exercise physiologists at Cleveland Clinic’s Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
So why aren’t more people eating better and exercising more?
“Some claim they don’t have enough time or don’t feel like it or don’t know how,” says Ms. Schultz.
Those things don’t need to hinder you and your family. Follow these seven easy ways to make your home a heart-healthy zone.
1. Use olive oil instead of butter.
While using butter in moderation may not be as bad as once thought, we know olive oil is better. Instead of butter, try brushing your bread or toast with olive oil. If you must use a solid spread, choose one with no more than 2 grams of saturated fat and zero trans-fat.
2. Wash and cut up vegetables so they’re ready for snacking.
It’s no secret that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. But buying a bunch of carrots or head of broccoli and putting it in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer may actually make you less likely to eat it.
“For some people, accessibility is key to eating vegetables,” says Ms. Schultz. “So, wash them, cut them and store them in a visible place in your fridge. You’ll be more likely to grab them a few bites at a time.”No need to cook them. Eating raw veggies may be better for your blood pressure.
3. Sneak vegetables into other dishes.
If eating whole vegetables just isn’t your thing, disguise them in other favorite dishes. For example, grate carrots into meatloaf, mash cooked cauliflower with potatoes, or mix sweet potatoes into macaroni and cheese. You may not taste the veggies, but you’ll still reap their benefits.
4. Cook together.
Your kids — or other picky eaters in your household — may be more willing to try heart-healthy recipes (like veggie burgers) if they help you make them.
5. Make your own single-serving packages.
For ready-to-go snacks, forget the chips, cookies and other junk foods that come in single servings. Make your own snack packages — with fruits, vegetables, whole-grain crackers, high-fiber cereal and other heart-healthy snack options.
6. Put exercise gear near the TV.
How often do you use that exercise bike or those hand weights in the basement? Try moving them into the family room. You may find that exercise becomes more convenient, suggests Ms. Schultz.
“An exercise peddler is an inexpensive device that you can use to sneak in physical activity while sitting at your desk or doing handwork, like knitting,” adds Dr. Siegmund.
7. Exercise as a family.
Getting a workout doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or taking an aerobics class. Make physical activity a natural part of your family life.
“Train together for a 5K run or charity walk,” suggests Dr. Siegmund. “Walk the dog. If you have children, take a weekly nature hike.”
Choices you make every day — about what you eat and how you stay active — play a major role in your heart health. Think your choices could be better?
“Most people don’t need a major lifestyle overhaul,” says Dr. Siegmund. “Small changes to the home environment can add up to big improvements.”