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September was Heart Awareness Month, so why not start this new season off by ridding your fridge of the “oldie mouldies” that have been hiding during the winter months.

One of the main causes of heart disease is what we stock our fridges with. As parents, it is up to us to teach our children how to make a heart healthy fridge. There are five main tips to follow that will help us make our fridges heart friendly for our entire family. Along with these tips, understanding our food labels will help us make better choices.

  • FATS

We all need fats in our diet. But distinguishing between good and bad fats will make the difference;

  • Trans-fats: Ideally we all need to keep trans-fats out of our fridges; for example, brick margarine. Food labels will often have the term “hydrogenated vegetable oil” replacing trans-fats so watch out for these products.
  • Saturated Fats: By minimising the amount of saturated fats available; for example, red meats and yellow cheeses; and opting rather for chicken; turkey; fish products and low fat or fat free dairy products we can ensure that the amount of saturated fats is limited. Don’t be tempted by “reduced fat” products as this means that the product is only 25% less fat to what the normal fat content is of the original product. Always read the label to see what the total fat content of the product is – a good guideline is between 10 – 13g of fat per meal.
  • Unsaturated Fats: These are our good fats. They help to increase our good cholesterol (HDL Levels) and decrease our bad cholesterol (LDL Levels), striving towards a healthier heart. Fatty fish; such as, salmon and mackerel; olives; and soft tub margarines are good examples.

  • VEGETABLES AND FRUITS

 According to the WHO we should be eating 500g of vegetables and fruit a day. This is approxiamately 3 servings of vegetables and 2 fruit servings per day. We need to make sure that we always have plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits available. If fresh are difficult to come by, frozen vegetables are good alternatives as they allow us to always have vegetables in our meals.  Make vegetables and fruit more family friendly by cutting them up and placing them in a bowl in an accessible place in the fridge for our children, these are extremely easy to snack on and a much healthier alternative. Children love celery and carrot sticks.

  • FIBRE

We want to focus on fibre rich carbohydrate sources. This means we need to increase the amount of fibre containing products in our fridges. Fibre is linked with lowering cholesterol levels. When shopping look at the fibre content on the label – 2.5g fibre per 100g are good options, but 5g per 100g is an excellent choice. Choose dried beans and lentils to increase your fibre content in your meals. Wholegrain breads and fresh whole-wheat pastas are other examples to reach your optimal fibre intake.

  • SALTS

Many processed foods such as luncheon meats, processed cheese and bottled sauces are high in hidden salt. To make your fridge heart healthy keep salty products to a minimum. The WHO recommends that total sodium intake doesn’t exceed 1500mg per day. When reading the food label, be aware of words containing “sodium” as these are the words for hidden salts in foods, for example, monosodium glutamate and sodium citrate. Keep fresh herbs and spices, onions, garlic, ginger and chilli available in your fridge to flavour foods rather than adding salt.

  • SUGAR

This again is much like hidden salts. Many processed foods will contain hidden sugars. The more obvious foods with high sugar content are your chocolates, fizzy cold drinks and ice cream.  Keeping your fridge free of sugary products, or keeping them at a minimum is another way to keep your fridge heart healthy. Make your own cold snack by freezing small low fat yoghurts to make a delicious alternative to ice cream.

Take a journey through your fridge this spring and heart month and find out how your fridge matches up!

Jordana Ventzke