Eat RED for Heart Month

Amy Deahl-Greenlaw, a registered dietition nutritionist and adjunct faculty member for Healthy NewsWorks, shares heart-healthy insights and recipes.

Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service.

February 2019…February is American Heart Month and a good time to check in on how to take good care of your heart. It’s important, because heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Some people choose to wear red to help build awareness of heart health during Heart Month. But instead, you can just eat RED!

Red fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins and minerals and their red color also makes them a great source of nutrients that help prevent disease, according to Fruits and Veggies—More Matters, a health initiative focused on helping Americans eat more fruits and vegetables for better health.

For example, tomatoes are not in season in February but there are many ready-to-eat tomato-based foods that are available year round. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of tomatoes.

Making healthy food fun to try

One of my favorite children’s books is I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. The main characters are Charlie and Lola, who are brother and sister. Lola is a picky eater and Charlie tries to figure out a way to get her to eat her dinner. Charlie is clever! He makes up funny names and stories about the foods. He calls carrots “twiglets from Jupiter” and tomatoes “moon squirters.” Lola thinks this is fun and tries them.

I love the way Charlie is creative and encouraging but not demanding. Letting children make up their own minds about food is important. Everyone has unique tastes.

Getting kids involved in making food also encourages them to try new foods. Here are some red ones to try:

  • Blood oranges
  • Pink grapefruits
  • Beets

And of course, many varieties of red apples, such as Gala, Pink Lady, Fuji, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Jazz, and more. Be sure to learn the name of the apple so you can get it again if everyone likes it! Cut them into slices and use flavored yogurt as a dip.

Make tortilla chips to go with salsa

You can make your own tortilla chips for a healthy tomato-based snack—the ever popular salsa and chips! This is a great recipe for kids to be involved in. Kids can use plastic knives to cut the tortillas into chips.

Ingredients
Corn tortillas
Salt (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut each tortilla into 6 triangles or wedges (12 tortillas will yield 72 chips).
Spread the tortilla wedges on a baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake at 350 for about 7 minutes.
Remove from oven to turn wedges over. Sprinkle with salt if desired. And bake for another 6 minutes or so until the chips are lightly browned.
Remove from oven and let cool before serving. Serve with homemade or store-bought salsa.

(Adapted from Simply Recipes: How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips)

You can’t spell ‘heart’ without ‘art’

Kids love art projects and here are two illustrations you can print to help them see the connection between health and food choices:

Veggie Kid (PDF)—Ask kids where are the tomatoes? They may want to color the picture or make a Veggie or Fruit Kid themselves.

Sweet red bell pepper hearts (PDF)—Try to make your own red bell pepper heart. Fill it with your favorite veggies!


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