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5 Heart-Healthy Nutrition Tips for 2021

January 04, 2021

It’s pretty safe to say that many people fell off the healthy eating wagon during 2020 — stress from the pandemic to remote learning at home for the kids to actual quarantining left lots of us reaching for the chips and cookies. Regularly scheduled meal times also fell by the wayside as Zoom meetings and Google Classrooms took over the house.

The New Year can be a reset for all kinds of things, including nutrition. Jessica Crandall, registered dietician at the Hartford Healthcare Heart & Vascular Institute’s Center for Advanced Heart Failure, at Hartford Hospital, says this is a great time to get back to the basics of healthy eating. And, she adds, if you’ve gained weight during the year  for whatever reason, it’s important not to be tempted by fad dieting.

“Trendy things to avoid include keto, fasting and cleanses,” she said. “There is no quick fix! And there is little data to support long-term benefits for any of these trendy diets. A high-fat diet (like keto) is not recommended for anyone with cardiac issues. And the keto diet is often low in fiber, which has long studied and proven health benefits!

“Fasting can have a negative effect on your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight in the long term,” said Crandall. “It can make it difficult to get your nutritional needs met as well. And there is no scientific research to support the benefit of most cleanses. The best way to detoxify your system is to eat a balanced diet with as little processed foods as possible!

Here are five tips for having a healthier 2021:

  1. Drink more water. Water helps as an aid in digestion, and helps to flush bacteria from the bladder, normalizes blood pressure, stabilizes heartbeat, as well as maintaining hydration.
  2. Eat more fiber: Don’t fear carbs! A high-fiber diet helps you feel full, lowers cholesterol, helps control blood sugar levels and maintains bowel health/regularity. Good sources of fiber include whole fruits, vegetables, potatoes (especially the skin), beans/legumes, whole grains (such as brown or wild rice, quinoa, barley, farro and whole grain pasta).
  3. Eat more plants. Purchase whole fruits and vegetables in their natural state and prepare as desired (raw, roasted or sautéed). Include bean/legumes and nuts. Try to include at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal.
  4. Eat enough for breakfast. Think of it as fueling your day! Having a good (as in balanced, with some fiber and protein) breakfast will help control your appetite throughout the rest of the day.
  5. Eat fewer processed foods. Processed meats are high in sodium and usually high in saturated fat. Processed plant-based meats are also high in sodium and often high fat also. Snack foods, sugary cereals and candy are nutritionally void and do not satisfy your hunger. Prepared foods  such as boxed, flavored rice mixes, instant potatoes and canned soups have added sodium.