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Balancing Food Choices for Blood Pressure

Couple Grilling

Did you know that foods and beverages can impact your blood pressure? High blood pressure is linked to some of the main chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Take action with balanced food choices to improve blood pressure and overall health! Here are some rules of the road to help keep blood pressure in check – keep it simple and start today. Every step towards healthier living can make a difference over time, and it’s never too late to start making better choices.

How much salt/sodium? The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests that most people should aim for no more than 2,300 mg a day, and a further reduction to 1,500 mg of sodium daily for some groups, including anyone age 51 and older. Simply reduce a little bit each day and over time taste buds will adjust and extra sodium won’t be missed. Take the salt shaker off the table and replace it with fresh or dried herbs and pepper! Use garlic and onion powders instead of the salts, and read labels on foods. The sodium per serving is easily found on the nutrition facts panel, and any ingredient with the word “sodium” in it are the easy clues to spot the sodium in all the food and beverage choices made. Extra help includes the “no salt added” and reduced sodium products. By FDA definition, “low sodium” means 140 mg or less per serving.

Pay attention to your choices. How many days go by in a blur due to busy schedules and nonstop running to different commitments before and after work, with food grabbed on the go for convenience at least once during the day? One of the best things to do for a snapshot of how balanced your individual meals are each day is to keep a personal food record and then take time to review. Constant business leaves little time to devote to thinking about how important it is to fuel your body correctly to get through all the week’s tasks.

Planning meals is as important as it is to plan time for homework, meeting that work deadline, or even going grocery shopping with a list! Pick a time during the week to take inventory of which foods are already in the freezer, fridge, and pantry, and then make the list to create meals using what is on hand. Keep in mind three food groups per meal is a great way to serve up balance. Once the kitchen is stocked with items that easily tie together for full meals, it makes those busy days a little less hectic at meal time. Eating at home instead of out is also an economical option that can be much healthier, too since meals can be made without any extra sodium or fat.

Monitor type and total fat. Heart smart oils are a great option to use when fat is needed in cooking and baking. Avocado, olive oil, canola oil, and peanut butter are examples of flavorful options that include fats that are smart for the heart. Since all fats provide the same number of fat calories and total fat grams per serving, it’s still important to measure whatever fat is being used to keep tabs on what is ending up in the final dish. Use nonstick sprays in addition to a measured amount of oil to make cooking with a measured amount of added fat a snap.

Get going! Appropriate activity every day is a great way to help with blood pressure, weight management, reduction of risk for many chronic diseases, and stress management. Activity can be anything from a walk around the block to gardening to a trip to the gym. Do what you like! Exercise is a great way to spend time with friends, think about the day ahead if exercising in the morning, or unwind after a stressful day at the office. Not sure where to start? Talk to your doctor and an exercise professional to help guide the way and offer suggestions on activities to include each week that are appropriate for meeting health goals no matter how big or small.

Eat fruits and vegetables every day, and fill half your plate with them. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day will provide loads of important nutrients to help reduce risk for chronic diseases and help protect health in a variety of ways. Choose every color each week! Toss vegetables into soups, casseroles, and stir-frys, and add fruit to salad, cereal, or even add salsa to top fish, chicken, or lean meat.

Eat a balanced diet with every food group present. It will taste great and help provide the nutrients you need.