In our first blog of this series, we noted lifestyle factors to improve heart health: quitting smoking, avoiding obesity, an increase in physical activity, a healthy diet, and stress reduction. In that post we discussed quitting smoking; in Part 1 we offered mindfulness techniques easily accomplished in the workplace; in Part 2 we offered the opportunity to get your own heart-shaped stress ball, a mindfulness tool to keep on your desk; and last week, in Part 3, we shared a list of exercises to help get you moving at your desk or on your break. While exercise can play a huge role in avoiding obesity, having a healthy diet is likely to make the most difference. Thus our final post of the series focuses on nutrition: what should you snack on, add to your packed lunch, and order at restaurant lunch meetings to help keep the pounds off – and keep the heart (and taste buds) happy.
1.) Nuts: A handful (or 1oz) of nuts consumed daily can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 30 percent. Among the best are walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, and pistachios. Opt for a raw/unsalted variety to ensure you’re not getting any unintended additives.
- If you prefer the flavor of roasted nuts try preparing some at home: preheat your oven to 250, measure 1 cup of raw/unsalted nuts, add 1 tbsp of avocado or coconut oil, mix together in a bowl with seasoning, then spread on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and roast for 1 hour. Seasoning variations: Sweet: ¼ tsp sea salt + 1 tsp cinnamon + 1 tsp coconut sugar. Salty: ¼ tsp sea salt + ½ tsp garlic powder + ½ tsp onion powder.
- Nut butters are also a tasty and versatile desk snack: stick to 1 tbsp at a time, opt for a brand with a lesser amount of ingredients, and try to avoid anything with added sugar and salt.
2.) Fresh Fruit: Along with nuts, apples showed up on almost every list of heart-healthy snacks we encountered. They’re high in antioxidants and pectin, which both help to reduce cholesterol levels. Try dipping apple slices in nut butter!
- Other heart-healthy fruits include blueberries, grapes, melon, avocado and grapefruit.
3.) Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas): All beans are a good choice when it comes to heart health, but garbanzo beans are a standout. They’re packed with soluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol; and they contain antioxidants, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Grab some hummus or snack on garbanzo beans right out of the can. Opt for brands that contain only these three ingredients: garbanzo beans, water, and sea salt. Try this recipe for a delicious crunchy, roasted version. Don’t be scared to switch up and alter the seasonings to suit your personal taste.
4.) Tips for when eating out: (1) Avoid sweetened beverages; opt for water or unsweetened tea. (2) Salads are always a great option but avoid high-calorie toppings, such as bacon, croutons and cheese. Plus ask for oil and vinegar instead of salad dressing. (3) Be mindful of portion size. Ask for a takeout box and separate your meal in two, putting away half for the next day. (4) Don’t snack on pre-lunch appetizers.
If you found value in our American Heart Month inspired workplace heart health blog series, please let us know by adding a “Paper Clip” comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts!