We have partnered with the American Heart Association of Vermont for American Heart Month, in February, to help you make informed, heart-healthy choices when you go to the grocery store and out to dinner. We’ve also included an easy, heart-healthy recipe for roasted butternut squash soup, adapted from the American Heart Association of Vermont, that is perfect for the chilly months ahead.
Tips for the Grocery Store
Start with the outer aisles. This is where you’ll find fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. The center aisles are generally where prepackaged and processed foods are stored. These foods contain longer ingredient lists and can contain higher amounts of sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure.
Be prepared. Don’t go food shopping when you’re hungry. Do go with a shopping list, and avoid those impulse buys at the register.
Avoid foods packed in oil. Instead, go for lean meats and canned fish packed in water. Also, choose items labeled as no salt added or low/lower sodium.
Tips for Eating Out
Talk with your server about how foods on the menu are prepared. For example, is the salmon you’re eyeing sautéed in butter or roasted, and how much added sugar is there in the salad dressing? The more you know, the better choices you can make.
Watch portion size. Order a half portion and consider sharing. If smaller portions aren’t an option, request a to-go box and save half of your entrée for lunch the next day.
Avoid extras. Cocktails, appetizers, and bread and butter are high in calories, sodium, and fat. It’s OK to skip them from time to time.
Speaking of extras… Ask for dressings, sauces, and gravy on the side. This way, you can control how much of these items you consume.
An additional resource is the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Food Certification Program, which provides criteria for seven groups of foods (meats, dairy, grains, etc.) that can help you determine if a food is heart healthy.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 1/2 cups fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
- 1 butternut squash, about 2 1/2 lbs.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions
- 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart low-sodium vegetable stock or water
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash lengthwise; remove seeds with a spoon. Season squash halves with 1 tsp. of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Wrap in foil and place on baking tray. Roast squash fofr 1 hour, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Using a spoon, scoop squash from the skin; set aside.
Place remaining 2 tsps. of olive oil, the onion, chopped carrot, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and 3/4 tsp. salt in a pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, until onions are translucent and carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Add stock or water and roasted squash flesh. Turn down heat and cook on a low simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain steady simmer. Remove bay leaf.
Place soup in a blender, or, using a stock blender, puree soup with the nutmeg, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the Greek yogurt. Puree on high until smooth, about 1 minute. Serve with dollops of yogurt.
Note: If using a blender, puree soup in two batches to avoid splattering.