Heart Healthy Families

Everything appears to be adorned in red, pink and white hearts in February to celebrate the loves of our life. February is also National Heart Month and a great time to assess how heart healthy your family’s habits are.

There are four main principles to achieve a heart healthy lifestyle for the whole family:

Daily exercise and physical activity

Daily exercise and physical activity help to support the bodies aerobic (heart) and anaerobic (muscles) systems. Exercise is defined as planned activity that exceeds typical daily movement (fast walking, jogging, jumping rope), whereas physical activity is simply movement performed by the body (gardening, walking at a moderate pace, taking the stairs versus the elevator). These forms of movement help to use up excess energy in the blood (triglycerides), increase circulation and strength both the heart and bodily muscles.

Mediterranean-style meals

Researchers have shown us that the dietary habits of people who live in the Mediterranean (Greece, Italy, Spain)  are linked to decreases in specific diseases, including heart disease, and a longer lifespan. A Mediterranean-style meal is high in fiber from fruit, vegetables and whole grains, rich in plant-based proteins (kidney beans) and is high in healthful fats from fatty fish, olives and olive oil.

Salt-free flavor

Heart healthy eating goes past what we eat or drink, but also what we sprinkle on the food for flavor. Too much salt (sodium) can lead to high blood pressure and thus an increase in one’s risk of heart disease and stroke. It is best to retrain those taste buds at a young age, in order to learn to appreciate the natural flavors of food without the extra salt. Garlic, onions, bell peppers, celery and carrots are all aromatic vegetables that are often used to enhance natural flavors without salt. There are also an assortment of herbs and spices perfect to perk up any palate.

Discourage smoking and excessive alcohol use

Smoking and excessive alcohol intake increases an individual’s risk of heart disease. Both are unhealthful habits to model for children. Also, second hand smoke is often more harmful than first-hand. There is some research to support alcohol intake as a heart healthy habits, however these benefits are seen in people who consistently drink 1-2 servings of alcohol daily. If an individual does not drink alcohol, it is not beneficial to start.

Jumping Bean ChiliFebruary Recipe: Jumping Bean Chili


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 carrots, diced

½ white onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 14.5 oz cans beans (red, kidney, black, etc), drained and rinsed)

2 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 14.5 oz  can vegetarian refried beans

1 28 oz  can chopped tomatoes

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

  • Sauté onions and olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots and garlic and cook until carrots just begin to soften. 
  • Add broth, tomatoes, cumin and chili powder and bring to a boil.
  • Then, reduce heat and add the beans and refried beans; stir to combine.
  • Allow to simmer for 10 minutes and serve warm.


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