Week 1: Are You Up For The ‘Eat Well Challenge’?

by Simona Terron

All this month, we’re celebrating American Heart Month, where the focus is on raising awareness about heart health and how to minimize your risk of suffering from heart disease or related issues like cholesterol and high blood pressure, among others. In fact, there’s even an Eat Well Challenge that you and your loved ones can participate in. Sponsored by the American Heart Association who is also giving away the prizes, the contest involves committing to eating a heart-healthy meal every single day for the whole month.

To help you pull it off, we put together a simple heart healthy meal plan for the week to help guide your choices and give you ideas for substitutes and swaps for some of your regular less-than-heart-healthy fare. We’ve given you an outline for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, a beverage and even a healthy but tasty dessert.

Here’s your detailed heart-healthy meal plan broken down for you:

Breakfast: Berry & Protein Smoothie
What To Have: Try our blueberry smoothie, which also has goji berries, hemp powder, raw cacao nibs, baked yam, flax seeds, and organic baby spinach.
Why: A smoothie to start you off in the morning will give you a solid dose of protein as you wake up and keep you full longer than a fruit-only smoothie might. Consuming protein helps you build muscle mass, which is crucial as we grow older. Strong muscles help our body to cope with the stresses and strains that tend to come with aging. A high-protein meal also contributes to raising our metabolism rate and that’s always a good thing.

Lunch: A fresh salad with arugula, poached eggs and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Why: This is a light and tasty meal that’ll keep you going for a long time, especially if you sprinkle a mix of nuts and seeds over the top. Full of omega 3 fatty acids, your ticker will be grateful for the sweet loving.

Dinner: Lasagna or other Italian baked pasta dishes
What to have: Although most folks think it has to be made with meat like ground pork or beef to be truly authentic, there are also plenty of healthy variations using vegetables like spinach or mushrooms, and even eggplant. Tofu is another substitute that is scrumptious and has tons of health benefits.
Why: The tomato sauce in many baked pasta dishes is oozing with potassium and lycopene, both of which are great for your prostate and eyes, as well as your heart

SnackGoat Yogurt With Goji Berries 
Why: This light yet filling snack contains a treasure trove of healthy probiotics that will protect more than just your heart. It's not only a great guard against heart attacks but is also rich in antioxidants, we well as healthy bacteria that builds up your immune system, improves digestion and stimulates overall health. When eaten with superfoods like goji berries, it is instantly transformed into a heart-healthy snack loaded with fiber and other essential nutrients.

Beverage: Matcha Green Tea
Why: Bottled beverages can make or break your heart healthy diet with added sugars and artificial sweeteners. Skip the sweetened fizzy drinks and sugary shakes, and reach for a cup of matcha green tea instead. Matcha is chock full of antioxidants, especially catechins, which fight inflammation in the body, promote cell repair and help maintain healthy arteries. This is great for your heart.

Dessert: Cocoa-Coconut Banana Bites
Why: It’s hard not to love bananas for their simple yet satisfying taste and powerful nutrition. Bananas are also full of vitamins and potassium, which means they boost your energy levels and cocoa is full of endorphins that lead to a feeling of happiness. This is a bite-sized dessert that foregoes butter-laden crusts and added sugars, but with the bittersweet cocoa and nutty coconut your tastebuds won't miss them for a second.

It's the little things that count and making small, consistent and effective changes such as this one heart-healthy meal on a daily basis will do wonders for your heart.

Images: Shutterstock

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