The COVID-19 outbreak is upending life for families around the globe. In such time, taking care of one’s well-being is extremely crucial and people with heart disease are no exception. Also working from home to maintain social distancing has its own challenges. We seem to have become constrained and probably physically less active. At home, you might be more tempted to snack more or eat more than usual. When you grab a small bite to eat, you might reach for salty snacks, and eating too much sodium can elevate your blood pressure over time and put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most significant things you can do to protect your health. In fact, up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented by controlling lifestyle risk factors like unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking, stress, etc. With the pandemic around, the best advice for eating well for good heart health is to cook more at home & make better heart-friendly food choices. Eating healthy doesn’t need to be complex or time-consuming. But it surely needs little planning!
Here are some handy tips for making healthier choices at the grocery store, in the kitchen, and on the go:
- Start with a plan - Meal planning is essential whether you’re cooking for yourself or a family. By planning, you eat better, save time, and spend less money. Try to set aside some time each week to write down your meal ideas and grocery list
- Shop smart – Smart shopping means knowing what to buy and when. Based on your recipes for the week, make a list of the ingredients you need to buy. Look for attractive discounts and compare prices as you shop online or at the grocery store
- Buy only a week’s worth of fresh produce- Highly recommended!
- Follow hygiene and sanitation procedures – Keep fruits and vegetables bought from vendors within the packet in an isolated place. Sanitize/ disinfect the food packages by wiping them with an alcohol-based solution or soap and clean water. Clean the foodstuffs with potable/clean drinking water. Do not use disinfectants, cleaning wipes, or soap on fresh produce. Store fruits and vegetables/ perishables in the refrigerator after cleaning. Things to be store at room temperature can be kept in baskets or racks.
- Build a heart-healthy pantry – Ensure to stock up enough fresh fruits & vegetables (prefer locally available, seasonal & colorful ones); opt for Whole grain foods (brown rice, wholemeal flour, wholegrain breakfast cereals, loaves of bread, pasta); nutritious grains like oats, ragi, barley, quinoa, amaranth; fresh milk, plain yogurt; unsalted nuts & seeds; fresh fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon are good options due to their omega 3 fatty acid content which are beneficial for heart health) eggs, lean meat (chicken without skin); use a combination of healthy oils – extra virgin olive oil, rice bran oil, groundnut oil, mustard oil, sesame oil; flavor meals using fresh/dried herbs & spices, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, etc. - these are great salt less alternatives
- Employ healthy cooking methods – try steaming, grilling, poaching, stir-frying/sautéing, roasting, stewing, barbecuing. These methods use no or minimal fat
- Read Nutrition Labels – Being able to understand and correctly interpret food label is vital to be able to make wise food choices
Nutrition information panels and ingredients lists can also be used to compare similar foods, so you can choose the healthiest option
- Always check the ‘Date of Manufacture’ and ‘Best Before’/ ‘Date of Expiry’ for freshness
- Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, & eggs from other foods in your grocery bags for food safety reasons
- It’s a good practice to organize your pantry items with dates in mind. Move items with dates that are about to expire toward the front of the shelf. This will remind you to use these items sooner
Talk to your health care provider about your health concerns and follow their recommendations to be and feel safe. Follow, the guidelines issued by government authorities from time to time in order to stay protected.
( Views are personal )
* The author is Manager-Nutrition at Kellogg India
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