The importance of maintaining good heart health cannot be overstated! As specialists in medically tailored meals, we know that “you are what you eat” rings true. The foods we eat affect how well our bodies function.
In honor of American Heart Month, the registered dieticians at LiveWell with Traditions offer these food guidelines for your members to help them show their heart and vascular system some love through proper nutrition (all year ‘round).
Hazards of high salt intake
Table salt (sodium chloride), which so many of us sprinkle liberally on our food, is 40% sodium. For people at risk for heart disease, this can be troublesome, as too much sodium in one’s diet can lead to high blood pressure and elevated risk for heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Therefore, advising your members to limit their daily intake of sodium or added salt will help support good cardiac health.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends maximum sodium intake of 2,300 mg. per day. This is around 1 teaspoon per day. However, most Americans consume far more (3,400 mg. or more, daily). Of that amount, around 70% of sodium is in processed and restaurant foods. We should all become more aware of how much salt we’re taking in—and think twice before we reach for that salt shaker!
Beware of foods high in sodium
Salt is used as a seasoning as well as a preservative. And a food doesn’t have to taste salty to contain sodium. Reading labels on all packaged, prepared foods, cured and processed meats, and certain seafoods is an important first step in understanding how much salt anyone consumes.
Foods that are high in sodium—and should be eaten in moderation (or avoided) for those watching their salt intake—include:
- Processed, canned and cured meats —bacon, ham, cold cuts, jerky, hot dogs and sausage
- Frozen seafood – check the packaging, as some producers use sodium-rich additives in plain frozen shrimp
- Convenience foods – instant/ boxed potatoes, canned soup, instant pudding, meal helpers/add-ins, pizza (cheese, sauce, dough all contain salt), and frozen meals
- Mac & cheese – that cheesy sauce contains a lot of salt
- Salty or savory snacks – chips, pretzels, pork rinds
- Prepared sauces and dressings
Tips to reduce salt consumption
- Reach for more whole, fresh, or unprocessed foods at the supermarket
- Look for foods that are labeled as low-salt or no-salt-added and check the nutrition facts label for the sodium content per serving.
- The CDC recommends buying prepared meals with less than 600 mg of sodium per meal; that figure is the upper limit set by the FDA for a meal or main dish to be labeled “healthy.”
- Use more herbs and spices to season dishes. Herbs and spices add flavor and they are rich in antioxidants, which support heart health.
We suggest basil, dill, oregano, parsley, paprika, rosemary, and sage in soups and stews, meat dishes, and pasta, sauces and dressings.
Cinnamon and cloves add healthful flavor to baked goods and sauces, as well as smoothies and custard (cinnamon).
Cumin and garlic add zest to dips, vegetables, Mexican-inspired dishes, and potatoes.
Citrus juices also add zest to vegetables (lemon juice is an excellent salt substitute).
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fill up on these nutritious foods while decreasing the portion of salty foods. Your heart will thank you! (As we shared in a previous blog article, apples are a great heart-healthy option.)
- Order nutritionally balanced, medically tailored meals that meet stated nutritional guidelines, meet the individual’s need for flavorful foods, and keep sodium intake in check.
Medically tailored meals for low-sodium, heart-healthy diets
The health plan meal benefit from LiveWell with Traditions helps your members stay on track nutritionally with medically tailored meals for those with cardiac conditions and/or require a low-salt diet for their health. Our diverse menu of chef-inspired, dietitian-designed meals also has delicious renal-friendly dishes (which are good for heart health as well). We deliver medically tailored meals to individuals with certain chronic health conditions as well as during the post-acute discharge time period.
Each menu complies with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and reflects precise dietary and nutritional guidelines to qualify for federal funding.
Plus, our meal packages are hand-delivered to your members’ door—nothing is ever left outside, and our trained drivers offer a helpful point of contact for seniors and the homebound.
Contact LiveWell with Traditions about our meal benefit and heart-healthy menus for your health plan members.