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Registered dietitian Nancy Chapman shares her top tips. Plus—a few recipes to get you started. By Ryan Weisser
Image via Shutterstock.

Now that Valentine’s Day is behind us—and most of the clearance chocolate has been scoured from grocery aisles—it’s time to focus on a healthier celebration for the heart: American Heart Month.

Heart disease is one of the top deadly diseases in the US, according the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly 50 percent of Americans have either high blood pressure or high LDL cholesterol, or they smoke—all of which can lead to heart disease.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Registered dietitian and longtime American Heart Association advocate Nancy Chapman shares easy tips for cutting back on bad fats and salts to make the switch a little less painful.

Focus on making it simple.

Chapman recommends filling half your plate with fruits and veggies and then adding lean or plant-based proteins. “Starting with fruits and vegetables will lower the saturated fats you add to your plate,” she says.

Using frozen fruits and vegetables is recommended, as they are easily stored, have a long shelf life, and are easy to add to lean-protein dishes, soups, or smoothies.

Be aware of portion size.

“A lot of excess sodium and fat from our diet just comes from eating too much food,” Chapman says. “If we eat more calories than we burn, we gain weight, and that extra weight puts stress on your heart and can raise your blood pressure.”

Also think about balancing your food groups. Fruits and veggies, whole grains, and proteins (especially plant-based proteins) should make up a meal.

Take a look at where you get your oils and fats.

“That which is liquid is better than that which is hard,” Chapman says. Basically: Avoid hard fats, such as the ones you'll find around meat, or the buttery fats in dairy products. Olive, coconut, and peanut oil are all heart-healthier options to cook with.

To quickly get an idea of the amount of fat your food has, Chapman recommends placing your food on a paper towel, which will wick up the excess fats and oils. “If the food is really greasy afterward,” says Chapman, “that’s a good sign that your food is particularly higher in saturated or trans fats.”

Use more herbs and spices.

“Over two weeks, your taste buds can lose the taste for salt,” Chapman says. To get through those two weeks when you're trying to cut down on salt, she recommends reaching for powerful flavors like garlic, cumin, turmeric, cilantro, and chili powder.

Be aware of your bad habits.

“We’re frequently influenced by the people we eat around,” Chapman says. If you know your friends or coworkers are going to persuade you to eat that extra cookie or go for the fries, she suggests doing healthier activities with those social groups to balance out the bad eating habits. “Try seeing if they’ll go for a walk with you after lunch—that way you can socialize and get in some exercise to counteract consuming higher-calorie foods.”

Focus on one meal at a time.

“Folks try to change a total day’s menu, and it makes the switch so much harder,” Chapman says. “Take a look at where you have the most amount of control, and then look at where you have the most difficult time making healthy choices.”

Focus on one meal, like lunch, where you can start brown-bagging a healthy salad or sandwich instead of eating out. Once you feel you have that habit under control, tackle something else, like those 3 PM snack attacks or breakfast on the go.

5 Heart-Healthy Recipes to Get You Started

These recipes all have components of a heart-healthy meal: lean proteins with omega-3 fatty acids, plant-based proteins, vegetables, and antioxidant-rich fruits (and chocolate).

Asparagus and Potato Salad With Lemon-Garlic Dressing and Salmon

No-Bake Cherry-Almond Bites

Whole-Grain Oatmeal Pancakes With Raspberry Sauce

Slow Cooker Moroccan Lentil Soup

Vegetarian Chili

Posted at 10:35 AM/ET, 02/23/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Healthy snack options that don't fall flat on flavor. By Ryan Weisser

Super Bowl celebrations are normally centered on a smorgasbord of pizza, wings, barbecue, and other foods you can cover in cheese or dunk in sauce. But if you want to watch the game without blowing your diet, here are some delicious, crowd-pleasing recipes that are festive, not fattening.

Chips and Dips

Baked Zucchini Chips

If you're making your Super Bowl dishes ahead of time, try out this light and crispy take on chips.

Photographs by Ali Eaves.

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Salsa

There is nothing tastier than fresh, homemade salsa. Plus—it only takes a few minutes to whip up.

Make-Ahead Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Yes, there is cheese in this, but it is a bit healthier than your typical restaurant-style or store-bought dip. With only 162 calories per serving, you won't feel guilty about seconds—or thirds.

Photographs by Ali Eaves.

Salt-Free Baked Chipotle Tortilla Chips

Don't blow your daily sodium intake with store-bought chips. They are easy to make at home, and are flavorful and salt-free.

Snacks

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

10-Minute Pita and Pepper Pizza

Use pita, naan or flatbread as your pizza dough, and you'll have a healthier, and just as tasty, option for snacking.

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Feta-Stuffed Buffalo Chicken Bites

These delicious poppers can be made ahead of time and can save you a lot of messy eating while trying to keep an eye on the game.

Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Fingers

Crunchy, protein-packed snacks are the way to go if you want to make it through the game. Try out this healthier version, which forgoes frying.

Photographs by Ali Eaves.

Old-Fashioned Popcorn With Pizza or Curry Spices

Try out this recipe for perfect popcorn, or create your own flavors—sans butter and salt, of course.

Photograph by Ali Eaves.

Vegetarian Chili

This warm and comforting dish has a good amount of veggies, protein, and spice. Try it on top of homemade tortilla chips for guilt-free nachos.

Photograph by Ali Eaves.

Vegetarian Pizza With Sautéed Fennel, Mushrooms, and Cherry Tomatoes

Get a few servings of veggies into your diet with this satisfying, low-calorie pie.

Drinks

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Lemon-Orange Sports Drink

No judgments here if you knock back a few while watching the game. Just be sure to replenish those lost electrolytes with this tasty, low-sugar drink.

Sweets

No-Bake Cherry Almond Bites

These super easy treats are made with only three ingredients—dried cherries, dates, and almonds—but experiment with flavors! Add a little bit of dark chocolate or oats and you'll have an antioxidant-rich, guilt-free treat.

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Low-Fat Chia Seed Brownies

This brownie recipe is just as good as the homemade, butter-laden original. We just made a simple swap to replace not-so-healthy fats with omega-3 fatty acids.

Posted at 04:18 PM/ET, 01/30/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Adding these to your diet may keep you happier and healthier all season long. By Torie Foster
These sweet-potato-and-apple stacks contain in-season, nutrient-packed produce. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

When the weather gets colder, it makes sense that we crave a warm bowl of chili or soup instead of a cold salad—but it’s not just because these foods make us feel cozier. Our bodies are telling us what we need to eat in the winter, when there’s less sun exposure, the air gets colder and drier, and we’re more prone to getting sick.

“Some people are very affected by the longer days, waking up in the dark in the morning and feeling more fatigued or depressed than usual,” says Danielle Omar, a registered dietitian and nutritionist in Fairfax.

Eating particular types of foods, Omar says, can help us stay energized and healthy through the winter. Read on for the ingredients to look for, plus a few of our favorite recipes.

1) In-Season Produce

It’s especially important to be eating with the seasons, Omar says. “Winter foods contain natural immune-boosting nutrients,” she says, which is important during cold and flu season. That means lots of winter squash, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, and fruits such as pears, apples, and citrus—all of which contain vitamins B and C and magnesium. Pomegranate seeds, another winter favorite, are also good for your heart.

Recipes to try:
Asparagus With Pomegranate Seeds
Kale-and-Cannellini-Bean Soup
Sweet-Potato-and-Apple Stacks

2) Complex Carbohydrates

It’s normal to crave carbs in the winter because they boost levels of serotonin, a mood-lifter, says Omar. But instead of reaching for baked goods or a plate of pasta, opt instead for complex carbs, which give you energy and keep you fuller longer. You might stock up on legumes and whole grains such as rye and quinoa, and swap out white pasta for whole-grain or bean pastas, which offer more fiber and protein.

Recipes to try:
Quinoa-and-Black-Bean Burgers

Quinoa Chocolate-Chip Cookies

3) Vitamin D Foods

Less sun exposure also means a decrease in vitamin D, which affects both mood and immunity. Egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified foods are all solid sources of the nutrient.

Recipes to try:
Mustard-Glazed Salmon With Pesto
Central American-Inspired Brunch

4) Omega-3 Fats

Foods such as salmon, other fatty fish, and walnuts contain essential omega-3 fats, also help stabilize mood swings. Other options include flax, chia, and hemp seeds—try throwing them into a smoothie or a bowl of oatmeal in the mornings, Omar says. Another plus: Omega-3s moisturize skin, which tends to dry out in the winter.

Recipes to try:
Apple Crisp With Nuts, Dried Fruit, and Ginger
7 Delicious Desserts With Flax and Chia Seeds

Posted at 02:28 PM/ET, 01/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus a few more of our favorite ways to use the winter fruit. By Rebecca Scritchfield
Photograph courtesy of Rebecca Scritchfield.

December, in addition to being one of the most festive times of the year, is also pomegranate season. These pinkish red orbs are known for their delicious sweet-tart taste and plentiful juice. Beneath that leathery red skin are hundreds of sparkling seeds known as arils that are an excellent source of fiber and deliver free-radical fighting antioxidants like vitamin C. (For more on why pomegranate seeds are so good for you, read this.) They are perfect for healthy snacking and cooking, but they sure are tricky to get out. Luckily, we’ve got this handy video that shows you the absolute easiest way to de-seed the fruit—no special equipment required. If that still seems like a bit too much muss and fuss, you can find containers of pomegranate arils at many grocery stores.

Pomegranate seeds add a burst of flavor, color, and nutrition to any meal. Try mixing them into leftover turkey or chicken salad; sprinkling them over oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon; or pairing them with squares of dark chocolate for a sweet-tart treat. I also love them as a topping on roasted vegetables, as in the asparagus recipe below.

Asparagus with Fresh Pomegranate Arils
Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
16 asparagus spears, jumbo

2 tablespoons shallots, minced
½ cup chicken stock (or vegetable for a vegetarian version)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup fresh pomegranate arils
chives, minced for garnish

Directions
1) Preheat a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Coat the pan with olive oil.
2) Add asparagus, and sear on all sides until golden brown.
3) Add shallots, and sauté for 1 minute.
4) Add chicken stock and butter.
5) Simmer stock until reduced by three-quarters, then remove from heat.
7) To serve: plate asparagus, garnish with pomegranate arils, and add chives. Serve with your favorite whole grain.

Rebecca Scritchfield is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and founder of Capitol Nutrition Group in Washington, DC.

Posted at 02:22 PM/ET, 12/12/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A tasty, satisfying breakfast that’s free of sugar, dairy, and grains. By Caroline Cunningham
Photograph by Caroline Cunningham.

Last week, we shared a recipe for dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield’s delicious healthy pumpkin-banana bread. But if you, like our most recent food diarist, are on a Paleo diet, you may have felt a bit left out. So here’s a recipe just for you: These pumpkin-spice pancakes are easy to make and free of dairy, added sugars, and grains. They’re also packed with protein and vitamin A to keep you full and give your immune system a boost.

The recipe makes enough for two; we recommend serving it with grade-A medium amber pure maple syrup for an all-natural topping to sweeten the deal.

Ingredients
1 can all-natural pumpkin purée
2 eggs
½ cup all-natural peanut butter (Note: check the ingredients to make sure there are no added sugars. Some “natural” peanut butters are still full of additives.)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
1) Warm an electric griddle to 250 degrees or use a nonstick frying pan on the stove at a medium heat. Coat the surface with cooking spray.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin, eggs, peanut butter, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Stir until smooth.
3) Spoon the batter onto the hot griddle or pan surface, creating circles no larger than 3 inches in diameter.
4) After at least 5 minutes, carefully flip the pancakes to cook the opposite side. Due to the density of the batter, these pancakes take much longer to cook than regular pancakes, so make sure to look at the edges or test them with a spatula before flipping.
5) Allow the pancakes to cook another 5 minutes until they are firm and no uncooked batter is visible on the sides. Serve warm.

Adapted from this recipe. Have a healthy recipe to share? E-mail tpai@washingtonian.com for a chance to be featured on Well+Being.

Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 11/07/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This spicy-sweet treat is chock-full of whole grains. By Tanya Pai
Pumpkin and banana combine for a nutritious breakfast treat. Image via Shutterstock.

Happy Halloween, Well+Being readers! While pumpkin-flavored everything has been clogging the shelves practically since August, we’re still (somehow) not sick of it—especially when it makes an appearance in one of our year-round favorites, banana bread. Registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield created this recipe for a healthy version of the classic baked good that packs in plenty of whole grains, gets its sweetness from natural maple syrup, and adds a dose of vitamin A, iron, and potassium from the pumpkin. “This recipe is perfect on its own for a quick breakfast, snack, or dessert,” says Scritchfield. “It also pairs well with a bowl of roasted vegetable soup or hearty bean chili, and is great to make in advance and store in the freezer.” If you have a mini loaf pan, bake individual loaves and defrost them whenever you want for a take-anywhere treat.

Pumpkin-Banana Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour for one loaf, or 40 minutes if using mini loaf pans
Serves: 12
Nutrition information: 183 calories, 6 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 27 milligrams cholesterol, 152 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 4 grams protein, 53 milligrams calcium.

Ingredients
2 mashed ripe bananas
1 can pumpkin purée
¼ cup vegetable oil (you can use corn oil, canola oil, or olive oil or experiment with your favorite)
½ cup maple syrup
2 eggs
2 cups flour (try whole-wheat pastry flour or 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour)
½ cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Lightly coat an 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan (or four mini loaf pans) with vegetable oil, and wipe off the excess.
3) Place mashed banana, pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup, and eggs in a large bowl. Beat with an electronic mixer on low speed.
4) Place flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and whisk to combine.
5) Add flour mixture to wet ingredients, and stir or lightly beat until just moist.
6) Pour batter into loaf pan, and bake for one hour or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving.

Rebecca Scritchfield is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and Founder of Capitol Nutrition Group in Washington, DC. Have a healthy recipe to share? E-mail tpai@washingtonian.com with details for a chance to be featured on Well+Being.

Posted at 12:15 PM/ET, 10/31/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
An easy, filling solution for busy mornings. By Tanya Pai
Photographs by Tanya Pai.

On chilly mornings, a hot breakfast feels like a delicious luxury—but crawling out of your warm bed early enough to whip something up can be a challenge. When you don’t have time to linger over your first meal of the day, this baked oatmeal is an easy, make-ahead solution. It’s packed with whole grains, reheats well, and makes multiple servings. Even better? It’s infinitely customizable. You can add any kind of fruit and spices you want, replace the sugar with honey or maple syrup, and even substitute chia seeds for the egg if you’re trying to go vegan.

Play around with whatever flavor combinations you enjoy; you may never go back to those instant-oatmeal packets again.

Baked Oatmeal With Peaches and Almonds

Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
¼ cup white or light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 cups milk (I used vanilla soy milk)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups frozen or fresh peach slices


Directions
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger.
3) In another medium bowl, whisk together the soy milk, egg, and vanilla.
4) Arrange peach slices on the bottom of the prepared baking dish, reserving a few for top of oatmeal (optional). Pour oat mixture evenly over peaches. Pour milk mixture over the oats. Gently tilt the baking dish to make sure the milk covers the oats evenly. Sprinkle almonds evenly over surface of oatmeal. If using, add a few peach slices to the top of the oatmeal.
5) Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and set. Serve warm or cool.

Adapted from this recipe. Have a healthy recipe to share? E-mail tpai@washingtonian.com for a chance to be featured on Well+Being.

Posted at 12:45 PM/ET, 10/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
This elegant appetizer is as easy as it is tasty. By Tanya Pai
Photograph by Rebecca Scritchfield.

Want to impress your friends at your next potluck? Try registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield’s recipe for kiwi-prosciutto crostini, an easy appetizer that’s as pretty as it is healthy—not to mention delicious. Bright green kiwi fruit has “more vitamin C than an orange and as much potassium as a banana,” Scritchfield says. “They’re also a great source of micronutrients like vitamin C and antioxidants, and they’re high in fiber.”

Kiwis are in season through the month, and Scritchfield makes the most of their tangy flavor by pairing the fruit with cool goat cheese and thin slices of prosciutto. The dish packs a sweet-salty punch and is a great way to sneak in a serving of fruit, which Scritchfield says nearly 70 percent of Americans don’t eat enough of.

Yield: 16 servings
Per-serving nutrition: 100 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 230 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein.

Ingredients
16 slices toasted crostini*
1 package (4 ounces) garlic-and-herb goat cheese
2 kiwis
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (8 slices), cut in half

Directions
1) Spread crostini slices with goat cheese.
2) Peel and slice each kiwi lengthwise into 8 slices. (A serrated peeler works great for this.)
3) Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each piece of kiwi.
4) Top crostini with prosciutto-wrapped kiwifruit. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 30 minutes.

*To make crostini, heat broiler. Slice 8-ounce baguette into ¼-inch slices. Using about 1½ tablespoons olive oil, lightly brush each slice. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat 1 to 2 minutes per side. Cool on wire rack. (May be made up to 2 days before serving. Store in airtight container.)

Have a healthy recipe to share? E-mail tpai@washingtonian.com for a chance to be featured on Well+Being.

Posted at 02:30 PM/ET, 10/17/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Dishes so satisfying you won’t miss the meat. By Tanya Pai
You could have this fennel, mushroom, and tomato pizza for dinner tonight. Photograph by Ali Eaves.

Going meatless (even occasionally) is good for your health, good for the environment, and—with the right recipe—great for your taste buds. In honor of World Vegetarian Day on October 1, we’ve rounded up some easy-to-make, meat-free options that are packed with nutrition and fall flavors: light snacks, slow-cooker soups, even a feast made for two. (And if you want to celebrate National Homemade Cookie Day afterward as a reward; Best Bites has you covered.) Read on for the recipes, and if you try one, tweet us at @washwellbeing to let us know how you liked it! 

Garlicky chickpea soup is great for chilly nights. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Soups and Chili

Kale-and-Cannellini-Bean Soup 

Vegetarian Chili

Gluten-Free Curried Carrot Soup

Crock-Pot Moroccan Lentil Soup

Garlicky Chickpea Soup

Butternut-Squash-and-Apple Soup

This cauliflower pasta is easy to make and packed with vitamin C. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Hearty Main Dishes

Brown-Rice-Stuffed Eggplant

Eggplant and Tofu With Curried Mint-Tomato Sauce

10-Minute Pita Pizza

Simple Cauliflower Pasta

Pizza With Fennel, Mushrooms, and Cherry Tomatoes

5 Delicious Vegetarian Mains 

A 3-Course Vegetarian Meal for Two

Brussels sprouts get crunch from almonds and a touch of sweetness from dates. Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Snacks and Sides

Brussels Sprouts With Slivered Almonds and Dates

Tabbouleh With Lemon-Garlic Dressing

3 Low-Calorie Pumpkin Seed Recipes

Vegan Sweet Potato Latkes

Lemony Mint Quinoa

Zucchini 3 Ways

Sweet Potato and Apple Stacks

Have a healthy recipe to share? E-mail tpai@washingtonian.com for a chance to be featured on Well+Being. 

Posted at 04:00 PM/ET, 10/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Easy ways to incorporate apples, sweet potatoes, and other seasonal favorites into your diet. By Alison Kitchens

The official start of autumn brings a few things with it—cooler weather, changing leaves, and insatiable cravings for fall foods. Dealing with the last one? Check out the six recipes below to help.

Do you have a favorite fall recipe of your own? Share it in the comments below.

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Sweet Potato and Apple Stacks
This simple snack combines two of our fall produce favorites.

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Pumpkin Pancakes With Spiced Apples
These pancakes are low in calories but still have tons of flavor.

Photograph by Ali Eaves.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus
Sweet potatoes add an autumn twist to this classic dip.

Photograph by John Wilwol.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
There are only a few ingredients in this warming soup, but it will feed you for days.

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Pumpkin Pie Shake
Ditch the pumpkin spice latte and try this healthy shake instead.

Photograph by Melissa Romero.

Baked Apples With Honey and Oats
Put your favorite apples to good use with this easy snack recipe.

Find Alison Kitchens on Twitter at @alison_lynn

Posted at 11:21 AM/ET, 09/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()