For those who know me well, you know that eating healthy and staying active is extremely important to me. I have been a runner since I was 16 and in love with anything related to health and nutrition since college. Over the past 20 years, my dad has had three heart attacks and open-heart surgeries, which has made me even more conscious of keeping my family fit and heart-healthy.
As you know, I’ve been working with CanolaInfo on its World Heart Day campaign and have learned a lot! For example, cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease, stroke and diseases of the blood vessels, is the number one cause of death worldwide, accounting for more than 17 million lost lives every year. In the U.S. alone, more than 81 million people (37 percent of the population) have CVD, resulting in nearly 850,000 deaths a year. Research has also shown that obese children are at a high risk for being obese as adults, which is a risk factor for CVD. There is good news though – with healthy diet and exercise, CVD can be prevented up to 80 percent of the time!
I’ve tried to teach my three children (10, 12 and 14) the importance of a healthy lifestyle through examples I’ve set and it seems to be working! As a family, we like to ride bikes, take walks, play tennis – anything active that we can do together. I also urge them to join team sports every season and we discuss the importance of making healthy food choices. I include them in meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. I am always proud, impressed and grateful when I see them making wise decisions with healthy snacks and other foods. But kids are also, well kids, so I try to make heart-healthy foods fun like these No Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars I developed for CanolaInfo’s “Home is Where the Heart is” Recipe Collection.
These easy and tasty granola bars are perfect for breakfast, a lunchbox dessert or afternoon snack. For more great kid-friendly recipes and information on living a heart-smart lifestyle, visit Canolainfo.org.
My three kids love this recipe for Mini Calzones, which I created for CanolaInfo’s “Home is Where the Heart is” Recipe Collection in honor of World Heart Day. They are so simple to prepare and tasty, your kids won’t even know just how heart-healthy they are.
Like other busy moms, keeping my family healthy is on the top of my list. For me, it’s about making small changes, like using canola oil in a dish as opposed to butter or other oils. I’ve always used canola oil in my kitchen, but have learned so much more during this campaign. Here is some of my favorite info:
1. Everybody needs a little fat in their diet. Fat is a part of every cell in the body. It’s a valuable source of energy, and it aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. It also slows digestion so that you feel full longer.
2. Not all fats are created equally. Unsaturated fats are healthy and saturated and trans fats are unhealthy. The type of fat consumed is as important as the amount.
3. Canola oil is one of the healthiest oils in the world. It has the least saturated fat of any cooking oil (half that of olive oil) and is free of trans fat and cholesterol. Canola oil also has the most omega-3 fat of any cooking oil and is a good source of vitamin E.
4. Canola oil can help protect the heart for just pennies a day. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a qualified health claim for canola oil on its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease when used in place of saturated fat. About 1.5 tablespoons of canola oil a day is enough to help keep the cardiologist away.
5. Canola oil is extremely versatile. Its light and neutral flavor make it ideal for almost any culinary application. In addition, the smoke point is extremely high at 468 F, making it ideal for sautéing or frying.
Also, if you haven’t already, check out the new interactive cooking game at Facebook.com/CanolaInfo, which features my recipe collection! You become the chef and try to beat the clock!
Grilling in the summer is the norm at my house. Lately, I have really been trying to get my kids to eat more fish. This Halibut with Mango and Goat Cheese recipe is one of my newest favorite creations that they really liked (can you say no leftovers?). The combination of maple syrup and Dijon mustard flavors the fish to perfection, and it goes great with the sweet and savory mango topping made with fresh mangos, parsley, lime juice and goat cheese. This makes a great weekend night family dinner or weekend idea for entertaining with friends. Serve with a tossed salad and grilled asparagus or grilled okra for a healthy summery meal in under 35 minutes.
If you’re looking for a dinner idea under 30 minutes, try Salmon with Pineapple-Pomegranate Salsa. This main dish is incredibly heart-healthy, pretty and filled with great flavors. This salmon recipe is truly one of my favorites. Start simply by combining maple syrup and Dijon and brushing the mixture over the fish. Top it with the easy, fresh Pineapple Salsa combination made with chopped fresh pineapple, fresh cilantro, lime juice and pomegranate seeds. When pomegranate seeds are out of season, you can substitute fresh blueberries or dried cherries. Feel free to also grill the salmon when grilling season rolls around. Enjoy this dish for a weeknight or weekend, and serve it with your favorite rice and a mixed green salad.
I’m on a main-dish salad kick this week since it’s so hot outside. I’m also so busy developing and testing recipes for a Christmas project for a major brand. It is so fun to think about Christmas and smell holiday dishes cooking in my kitchen in July. Testing heavier recipes for work makes me want something really light and healthy for dinner. This recipe is one of my favorites for this time of year. I love the freshness of grapefruit, oranges and basil served with the shrimp. When I make this, it’s gone within minutes. It’s very low in carbs, fat, calories and gluten-free.
My sister, Natalie, asked me for some main-dish dinner ideas since her two daughters are now home from college for the summer. This recipe for Flank Steak with Tomatoes and Feta is perfect for weeknights and weekends, especially since it’s grilling season (and Memorial Day is coming up). It’s so simple to prepare using fresh basil, oregano, garlic, fresh lemon juice and red wine vinegar. And who says beef isn’t healthy? Flank Steak with Tomatoes and Feta only has 185 calories, 29 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fat and carbohydrates per serving.