Simple Steps You Can Take For A Healthier Heart

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Just because February is American Heart Month doesn't mean you can't do good for your heart year-round. Taking even one or two small steps toward a better diet can have a huge pay-off for your health. Ellie Krieger, host of Food Network's Healthy Appetite and author of several books on healthy eating, shares her advice for making good choices in the kitchen.

When it comes to heart health, are there any ingredients or cooking techniques that we need to do away with?
We don't need to do away with salt entirely for heart health, but it is important not to lean on salt for flavor in recipes. I like to flavor my recipes with heart-healthy seasonings like herbs, spices, garlic, and citrus and then add a little salt to bring it all together. I also suggest choosing low-sodium canned products — like Campbell's line of Healthy Request soups — and looking for the American Heart Association Heart Check mark on packaged goods, which ensures they meet the AHA's heart healthy requirements.

Similarly, are there any ingredients or cooking techniques that we need to add to our routines if we want to do more heart-healthy cooking?
One of the most important ingredients to add to your cooking is more colorful vegetables. Different colored vegetables have different antioxidants, which protect your heart (and every cell in your body). Plus, vegetables are loaded with potassium, which helps keep blood pressure in check, and, because they are filling without a lot of calories they can help with weight management, which is key for heart health, too. 

Whenever I make a dish I think, "How can I add some more color?" It could mean tossing some spinach into my pasta sauce, some grated carrot on my sandwich along with the usual lettuce and tomato, or red peppers and mushrooms in my scrambled eggs.

[pullquote:left]Do you have any tips for getting your kids excited about healthy foods and healthy cooking?
Get them involved in as many ways as possible in the kitchen and out. Even small children can do things like tear lettuce for a salad, or measure ingredients. Also, one of my favorites is to let the child pick the vegetable at the market for that night's dinner. Sometimes they will pick something you never cooked before, so that becomes a fun exploration for both of you. Also, eat together as much as possible, and eat the same food! I believe serving separate "kid food" deprives children of the opportunity to try different things and becomes a real trap for parents. There are plenty of dishes everyone will enjoy.

What's your favorite family-friendly heart-healthy recipe?
I recently developed Chicken with White Bean and Vegetable Simmer on behalf of the Campbell Soup Company to bring awareness to heart health for women, and my family couldn't get enough of it! My husband said it was real comfort food for him. It is a one-pan skillet supper with chicken breast served over a simmer of zucchini, carrots, onions, garlic, lemon, and white beans in a sauce made with Campbell's Healthy Request Condensed Tomato Soup. It has all the elements of heart-healthy eating I mention above, and it is so delicious and easy to fix.

Anything else we should know when it comes to heart-healthy cooking?
Don't forget to use healthy oils like olive oil.

Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.

Best known as the host of the Food Network's hit show "Healthy Appetite," Ellie's warmth and charisma have made her the leading go-to nutritionist in the media today. Krieger's success can be attributed to her unique way of offering real life advice without any of the gimmicks and CRASH DIETS that permeate the media today. She reaches people with her message that it is possible for anyone, given the tools and knowledge, to live life to the maximum by keeping a healthy balance and nurturing a richly satisfying and sumptuous, attainable lifestyle. She's also a best-selling author of three books including So Easy: Luscious Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week.