Swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats
A diet high in saturated fat (found in red meat and dairy) can raise your bad cholesterol, or LDL. Try replacing these with better-for-you poly- and monounsaturated fats: Switch from butter to olive oil. Snack on roasted unsalted nuts instead of potato chips. Add more fish (rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fats) to your meal plan in place of red meat. Salmon and avocado are great sources of healthy fats and are delicious together in these Salmon and Rice Lettuce Wraps.
Cut back on sugary drinks
Research shows that drinking lots of sugary sodas can increase chronic inflammation and your obesity risk, both linked to heart disease. The good news is that cutting back on sodas actually gets easier over time as you become more sensitive to sweetness and crave it less. Start small, drinking one less soda a day or diluting it with seltzer. You can also make your own beverages that skip added sugar, like a bright, bubbly Pineapple Sparkler. This is also a great option for an alcohol-free mocktail.
Eat foods that raise good cholesterol
Good cholesterol (HDL) helps your body flush out bad cholesterol (LDL) that can build up in your arteries. Foods high in fiber like beans, lentils, and whole grains are all good for your HDL, along with olive oil and avocados. Note too that foods naturally high in cholesterol (like eggs) won’t affect your cholesterol level as much as saturated fats. If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, you can have them checked at your next routine physical. Increase your good cholesterol with a high-fiber main like Lentil-Stuffed Acorn Squash.
Be active as a family
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart: It helps your body use oxygen more efficiently, lowers your blood pressure, and improves your mood. If you're struggling to make time to exercise, turn it into a family activity: Do yard work together, take a longer walk to run an errand, or spend more time at the park. You'll get more time together and motivate each other to get moving. Keeping your kids active also reduces their risk of obesity—what can increase their heart health risk as they get older. For a snack to fuel you and your family on an active day, try 5-ingredient Energy Bites.
Sleep more, stress less
Sleep helps to restore and repair your body. Try to get long, uninterrupted stretches of sleep as often as you can. Start by limiting screen time for you and the kids about an hour before bed and sticking to regular bedtimes. Better sleep also improves your mood, and research has shown that a positive outlook can reduce your heart disease risk. When you're less stressed, your blood pressure is lower and your heart won't beat as fast. In addition to more sleep, try getting out in nature, keeping a gratitude journal, and having safe interactions with friends and family.