Put Together a Heart-Healthy Plate

April Bruns | February 13, 2024 | Health

February, celebrated for love, is also an ideal time to adopt heart-healthy habits, as advised by dietitians promoting the Mediterranean Diet. This diet, linked to healthier weight, reduced risks of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, emphasizes a plant-based approach with vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil. Key steps include filling half the plate with colorful vegetables for essential nutrients, a quarter with whole grains and complex carbohydrates, and adding lean proteins like sustainably sourced seafood, especially omega-3 rich fish like rainbow trout, to reduce red meat intake and enhance heart health.

Love is in the air!

February is a great month to celebrate the one you love, and it is a great time to focus on some healthy habits that will keep your heart beating for a long time. As a dietitian, I guide my clients on learning how to put together a heart-healthy plate in three easy steps using the Mediterranean Diet. Research has shown that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have a healthier weight, a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Consider these tips as part of a lifestyle, not a trendy fad diet promising a quick fix. The Mediterranean plan is full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices. We want most of our meals to be supplied by these plant sources.

Step One: Fill Up on Vegetables First

Put together your heart-healthy plate by starting every single meal off with half of your plate full of vegetables. Choose vegetables deep in color. You can use fresh or frozen veggies but limit your use of canned vegetables due to the high sodium content. Vegetables are going to provide your heart with essential nutrients that control blood pressure levels, insoluble fiber that reduces cholesterol levels, and antioxidants that fight off diseases.

PRO TIP: To save time and make a quick Mediterranean dinner throw some frozen stir-fry vegetables in a wok and cook them in olive oil. Olive oil helps us absorb some of the beneficial nutrients from the stir-fried veggies. The Mediterranean way of eating is rich in healthy fats such as olive oil. Keep frozen vegetables on hand, so you never have an excuse for not eating them.

Step Two: Don’t Shy Away From Whole Grains

The next step to putting together a heart-healthy plate is to fill a quarter of your plate with carbohydrate sources that are mostly whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Seek out brown rice, barley, whole wheat bread and pasta, chickpeas, cannellini beans, lentils, and fava beans at your grocery store. Limit your consumption of highly processed refined grains such as white bread, white pasta, and sweets and pastries. Focus on adding in some fresh fruit as a dessert, rather than a high sugar dessert.

PRO TIP: Batch cook some whole grains such as brown rice, wheat berries, farro, barley, or quinoa allows you to use a little every day as a side dish and save a lot of time. Toss in some complex carbohydrates such as beans, add in chopped basil, avocado, and more olive oil, and you have a fantastic side dish in about 30 seconds.

Step Three: Add in a Lean Protein Source

The final step in putting together a heart-healthy plate is to add in a lean protein source. Seafood and fish are a significant part of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Look for locally sourced and sustainable fish, such as rainbow trout. If you are not a big fan of fish, you will be happy with the mild flavor and versatility of rainbow trout. Eating more fish and seafood will mean you naturally eat less red meat, which has been linked to a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Seafood and fish provide your heart with omega-3 fatty acids, which may:

  • decrease triglycerides
  • lower blood pressure
  • reduce blood clotting
  • decrease the risk of stroke and heart failure risk
  • reduce irregular heartbeats

PRO TIP: Season fish with citrus, herbs, and spices that are naturally low in sodium.
Fish cooks quickly and is a much better option than hitting the fast-food lane.

As you are working through the final part of winter, try making simple changes with these three easy steps. Putting together a heart-healthy plate can become part of your lifestyle and set you up for the long term. Healthy recipes can help support your success. Check out my top three heart-healthy recipes and go treat yourself to a heart healthy meal.

Citrus Rainbow Trout with Apple Beet Slaw

Rainbow Trout Cauliflower Rice Bowl

Rainbow Trout Bites

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