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It’s easy to become overwhelmed by healthy eating, but your overall health will benefit if you can stick with healthy basics during this trying time. That means filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit, a quarter with protein-rich foods, and a quarter with whole grains, as described by Canada’s Food Guide.

Preparing meals can seem complicated though with hard to get ‘superfoods‘ seeming like the only way to cook nutritiously. But this is simply not the case — heart healthy foods are hiding in plain sight at every grocery store across the country. Fresh, frozen, shelf-stable and more, these delicious whole foods benefit your total body health. Below are some of our tips that you can use, without breaking the bank.

Choose Wisely

Plan your meals ahead of time, so you can shop once and get groceries for the next week or two. When you plan your meals, make sure to use your perishable vegetables, fruit and protein options first, and save the canned, frozen and shelf-stable food for later.

Peel it Yourself

Buying foods in their close-to-natural state will always save you money. A one kilogram bag of whole unpeeled carrots costs about one-third the price of the same size bag of pre-cut baby carrots. Convenience comes with a higher price tag.

Go Meatless on Monday

Pick one or more days per week to go fully meatless, focusing on the highly affordable protein found in beans, legumes, eggs and tofu. Transform humble edamame beans into an edible masterpiece with this Carrot, Parsnip and Edamame Salad, ideal for lunch or dinner on the days you go meatless, or any day.

Choose In-Season Foods

Shopping in season is a simple way to enjoy a healthy diet on a budget, without even thinking twice. Head to your local farmers’ market or grocery store each week with growing seasons in mind. For instance, buy asparagus in April or May (not December!) and strawberries in June. In the summertime, you’re spoiled for choice, though this way of cooking and eating works year-round.

Use Frozen Vegetables

Picked at the peak of freshness and flash frozen, these ice-cold health foods are often just as nutritious as they are fresh. Choose frozen produce free of sauces, salt and sugar, and keep your eye out for sales during the week. They’ll keep for months, allowing you to buy in bulk and add to stews, stir-fries, salads, sides and soups

Oftentimes, we all enjoy a meal that is unhealthy but did you know that while it’s quite common to adopt an unhealthy diet about 90% of us are not getting the proper daily amount of vegetables?

For this reason, we want to highlight the importance of a diet that is full of fruits and vegetables and the benefits they contribute to your heart health. Which vegetables and fruits are the most heart-healthy though?

To help, we’ve shared below some of the best fruits and vegetables that you can have for a heart-healthy diet, as well as when they’re in season.

Heart Healthy Fruits and Vegetables

Berries

Berries such as strawberries and blueberries are believed to carry antioxidants that help to decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels. This is attributed to the benefit of compounds known as anthocyanins, and flavonoids.

When they’re available: 

  • Strawberries: May, June, July, August, September, and October
  • Blueberries: July, August, and September
  • Cranberries:  September,  October and November
  • Raspberries: July, August, September, and  October

Potatoes

Although potatoes can be more challenging to your heart-healthy dining, if you don’t deep fry them, they can be extremely good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium and high in fiber (if the skin is left on), which again, can help lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.

When they’re available: year-round

Tomatoes

Similar to potatoes, tomatoes are high in heart-healthy potassium. Plus they’re a good source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that may help to get rid of “bad ” cholesterol, keep blood vessels open and lower heart attack risk.

When they’re available: 

  • Greenhouse: year-round
  • Field: July, August, September, and October

Broccoli, Spinach and Kale

When it comes to your heart health, you can’t go wrong with vegetables. Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, or kale can give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and can free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fiber and contain lots of vitamins and minerals.

When they’re available: 

  • Broccoli: June, July, August, September, and October
  • Spinach: May, June, July, August, September, and October
  • Kale: June, July, August, September, and October

Avocado

These soft, tasty fruits will provide your body and heart with plenty of healthy fats. They’re composed of monounsaturated fats, high in antioxidants, and also contain potassium to help lower heart disease factors.

When they’re available: (commercially) generally year-round

Asparagus

One of the most important heart-healthy ingredients that are found in asparagus is vitamin B6. This vitamin can lower homocysteine, a form of amino acid that has been linked to heart disease.

When they’re available: May and June

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers contain folate, another nutrient that can reduce homocysteine.

When they’re available: 

  • Greenhouse: February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December
  • Field: July, August, September, and October

Carrots

Carrots are rich in carotenoids, which are powerful antioxidants that can combat free radicals that cause heart disease.

When they’re available: February, March, April, May,  July, August, September, October, November, and December

Garlic

Garlic contains phytochemicals that boost immunity and protect the heart against diseases.

When they’re available: February, July, August, September, October, November, and December

Onions

Onions are a rich source of sulfur-containing phytochemicals. These phytochemicals can reduce cholesterol levels, and therefore, prevent heart disease.

When they’re available: year-round

If you’re interested in learning about other heart-healthy foods, check out our post on Ten Essential Foods For A Heart-Healthy Diet; And if you’d like to know when other fruits and vegetables are available, check out Foodland Ontario’s page.

With the summer season upon us, it means that many Canadians will be taking full advantage of the outdoors. Summer allows us to enjoy activities that we wouldn’t normally have the ability to do the rest of the year as the environment is often too cold.

For these reasons, Canadians tend to gravitate towards BBQing and eating outdoors as primary summer activities.

The change in climate doesn’t always provide you with the best benefits though, as foods that you reserve for summer can also bring a lot of risk to your diet. Many of us are prone to gravitating towards less healthy choices that might be higher in fat, such as burgers and hot dogs.

Here are some heart-healthy food ideas for you to consider this summer:

Heart Healthy Meals

Tilapia and Vegetables

Grilled Corn Salsa

Piri Piri Chicken

Bulgur Wheat Salad

Peachy Chicken Salad

Summer Fruit Smoothie Ice Pops

Vanilla Lemon Berry Parfaits

Tart Apple Buttermilk Cake

Recipes From Our Resident Expert, Marsha Rosen, RD
Here are some heart-healthy recipes provided by Marsha Rosen, RD (Registered Dietitian). Marsha is 
Mike Salem’s sister and in addition to offering private nutrition counselling, Marsha provides group lectures, seminars and cooking demonstrations.

If you have a nutrition question for our dietitian, you can email Marsha here…

Do you have a heart-healthy recipe that you would like to share? Send your recipes to info@mikeynetwork.com

Bulgur wheat salad with Broccoli

Serves 2

Ingredients

QuantityIngredient
2/3 CupBulgur wheat
300mlHome-made or low salt stock
1 CupCherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
2Spring onions
1Baby Cucumber, diced
 2 TbspFresh parsley or watercress
1 TbspFresh mint
Dressing 
2tspOlive oil
2tspLemon juice
2tspFresh Orange Juice

Instructions

  1. Put the bulgur wheat in a small saucepan and cover with the stock. Bring to boil then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, fluff with a fork, and leave to cool – the grains will absorb the warm liquid.
  2. Chop the broccoli finely and the parsley and mint leaves finely. If you have a blender, you could quickly blend them all together to save time. In a salad bowl, mix together the broccoli, tomatoes, onions, cucumber and herbs.
  3. Whisk together the oil, lemon and orange juice and stir into the bowl with the cold bulgur wheat grains. Add an extra squeeze of lemon or orange juice to taste.

Cook’s tips

Cover with cling wrap and it will keep in the fridge for 2–3 days. Add a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to refresh it.

This is great as a side dish but to make it a main dish, add chopped roast chicken or turkey, flaked poached salmon or reduced-fat Greek-style Feta cheese and serve with salad.

This recipe was found on the British Heart Foundation’s site. We have plenty of heart-healthy recipes, but if you’re looking for more, they’re a great resource. 

Recipes From Our Resident Expert, Marsha Rosen, RD
Here are some heart-healthy recipes provided by Marsha Rosen, RD (Registered Dietitian). Marsha is
Mike Salem’s sister and in addition to offering private nutrition counselling, Marsha provides group lectures, seminars and cooking demonstrations.

If you have a nutrition question for our dietitian, you can email Marsha here…

When thinking of the term “exercising” we often think of team sports, or something that we can do as an individual, like running. The thought of ‘family’ doesn’t really come to mind, but often our families are where we first learned the basics of exercising. Kicking the soccer ball in the backyard, doing chores around the house, riding a bike or simply going for a walk around the block. These small activities laid the foundation for many of the exercises we continue to do throughout our lives.

Although many of us share memories of doing activities like these growing up, organizations like ParticipACTION are noticing that there is now a drop off in activity by youth. According to their study, only 9% of Canadian kids ages 5 to 11 accumulate the recommended guideline of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, at least six days a week.

Take steps now to combat this and it will be easier for you and your children to retain a heart-healthy lifestyle over each of your lives. There are many activities that you as a family can do together, and to help provide you with some ideas of fun things to do, we’re sharing 8 of our favorites.

Walk or a Hike

Going for a simple walk around the neighborhood can be a great activity for any age. If you’re looking for something more challenging, organizing a hike with your family can be a great way to maintain your physical fitness while seeing more of the great outdoors. Look at national parks in your area and make a day or weekend of it! Just make sure that you’re properly prepared if you do plan to go out into the wilderness.

Cycling

Families with members of all ages can definitely enjoy the benefits of cycling. The exercise can actually be better for older members of your family as it usually has less impact on the muscles and joints. Organize a bike ride around your neighborhood with your family and see the many parts of your community.

Swimming

Especially during the summer months, swimming can be a great activity for the whole family to enjoy and cool off. Many municipalities offer plenty of family time swims, as well as free swims at pools. If you’re really adventurous, take your family out for a beach day. There are a wide variety of beaches in Ontario, so get out there and explore!

Organize Family Play Times

This sounds super simple, because it is! Simply organize some fun games or sports that you can do in a park or in a backyard that will get you moving. Common games we love to play include, soccer, tag, and water fights. Want to get really creative? Invite extended family or friends from the neighborhood. They may be able to introduce your family to a new game or activity that you may not have been aware of.

Create An Activity Pack

Have some downtime with your family? Build a backpack of basic activity gear with items such as balls or other catch-and-throw objects (like a Frisbee), a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, pylons (to serve as targets or goal posts), a Dyna Band or any other equipment that suits your family’s interests. This pack will help save you on slower days.

Go To The Playground

The Playground offers endless opportunities of fun to be had. Ask your kids about fun games that they like to play with their friends during recess such as grounders, tag, hopscotch, monkey bars and 4-square. This can be difficult for some members of the family, as playgrounds aren’t really meant for adults and can be difficult to maneuver.

Yoga

Yoga is beneficial for anyone at any age. It allows you to center yourself and to stretch out many areas of your body to stay flexible and mobile. The best part is that you can do Yoga anywhere, so whether you’re at the beach, in the backyard, or at home, you’ll always have a space to do this great exercise.

If you would like more ideas on how to stay active with your family, we highly encourage you to go and check out the Participaction’s site. They have a plethora of programs and ideas to help keep you active.