(Family Features) - It's 3 p.m. on a Saturday and your stomach is growling. You ate lunch at noon and dinner is at least three hours away. "I'll just have a snack," you think and head to the kitchen. As you scan your pantry for something scrumptious, all you see is a bag of greasy potato chips. Hunger or health - what will it be?
If this scenario seems all too familiar, it's time to revamp your snacks. You don't have to pit tasty treats against good health. Snacks can be both tasty and healthy, freeing you from guilt and risk. This season start snacking smarter. Try these simple tips from the American Heart Association and learn to eat and live heart-healthy.
Cut out the "bad" fat. Eating food high in saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol raises your blood cholesterol level. A high level of cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attack and stroke.
Watch out for fried munchies. Look for snacks labeled as having more polyunsaturated than saturated fat. An easy way to find heart-healthy foods is to look for the American Heart Association's red heart with a white check mark symbol. This icon appears on foods certified to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Visit heartcheckmark.org to find a complete list of more than 800 certified heart-healthy foods.
Make your own healthy snacks. To get started, pick up the ingredients for "Almond Snack Mix" on your next trip to the grocery store. This recipe is a healthful twist to the traditional trail mix. It's easy to take with you when you're on the go and great to munch on while relaxing at home. Just a handful of this hearty snack will satisfy your hunger.
Keep moving and watch those calories. Physical activity helps raise HDL (good) cholesterol, so don't let snacking be a substitute for being active. And try not to overindulge in high-calorie snacks. By balancing the calories you take in with those you use up in exercise and other activities, you can maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most or all days of the week. Any movement is better than no movement, even in short intervals. Here are some other tips:
- Go out for a short walk before breakfast, after dinner, or both
- Work in the garden or mow the grass
- Park farther away from the store and walk the extra distance
Other ways to control cholesterol
Get a cholesterol screening. You should have your cholesterol checked at least every five years starting at age 20. It should be checked more often if you have high cholesterol or are at higher risk. Follow your healthcare professional's recommendations.
Know your history. Although a healthy diet can help many people prevent or manage high cholesterol, heredity plays a role, too. Be sure to tell your doctor about your family history so he or she can assess your disease risk. And if your doctor says you need to take medication to lower your cholesterol, it's still important to continue eating a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol and rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish.
To learn more about reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke through good nutrition, visit americanheart.org or call 1-800-AHA-USA1 for your free copy of the "Shop Smart with Heart" brochure.
Shop smart. Live well. Look for the heart-check mark!
All products bearing the red heart with the white check mark symbol meet the American Heart Association's nutrition criteria per standard serving size to be:
- Low in fat (less than or equal to 3 grams),
- Low in saturated fat (less than or equal to 1 gram),
- Low in cholesterol (less than or equal to 20 milligrams),
- Moderate in sodium, with less than or equal to 480 milligrams for individual foods; and
Contain at least 10 percent of the Daily Value of one or more of these naturally occurring nutrients: protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron or dietary fiber.
- Seafood, game meat, meat and poultry, as well as whole-grain products, main dishes and meals must meet additional nutritional requirements.
Visit heartcheckmark.org to find a complete list of more than 800 certified heart-healthy foods. Use the free, online grocery list builder to create and print a personalized list you can take with you to the store.