Here’s a quick way to start eating in a more heart-healthy way literally overnight: do a pantry makeover. Start by getting rid of every food item in your kitchen that has either of these two characteristics: too little nutritional value (fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein) or too much fat, sodium or sugar. This includes all junk food of course, but also almost all processed foods in your pantry.
When I first got home from hospital after my heart attack, for example, I became an obsessive grocery label reader. I couldn’t believe the sodium content in a can of refried beans! That stuff will kill you.
If you put unhealthy food in your grocery cart, you’ll eat it. If you don’t, you won’t. Very simple.
When you go shopping, bring a list. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Choose most foods from around the perimeter of the grocery store, where the healthiest food tends to be located. And most important – read those labels. But meanwhile, if you’re feeling ruthless, start tossing out anything in your pantry right now that fits those two criteria - and then let’s look at re-stocking basic heart-healthy pantry must-haves:
The Basic Heart-Smart Pantry
* Brown rice – short/long grain, or basmati – and other grains for salads (e.g. quinoa)
* Whole grain pasta
* Canned tuna and salmon, packed in water
* Sardines, packed in water
* Bottled marinara sauce and salsa, low-sodium
* Whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, unprocessed bran, corn meal
* Canned low-sodium kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, refried beans
* Dried beans, lentils, barley
* Canned low-sodium diced tomatoes and tomato paste
* Reduced-fat, low-sodium broths and soups (if you’re not already making homemade – we’ll get to that later!)
* Extra virgin olive oil (for salads), canola oil (for cooking) and balsamic vinegar
* breakfast cereals: oatmeal (not instant) or any high-fibre, low-sugar whole grain
* natural peanut or almond butter
* low-sodium soy sauce, hot sauce, dried herbs and spices, dijon or brown mustard
* dried cranberries, apricots, raisins
* Snacks: popcorn (air-popped, not that stinky microwave stuff), unsalted nuts, high-fibre granola or protein bars, natural fruit leathers, whole grain low-salt crackers like Rye-Vita, and of course – a bit of heart-healthy dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa)
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