Pros Share Tips for Creating Heart Healthy Meals

1000 anne individual pic

Anne Hytrek

Not only are hearts synonymous with Valentine’s Day on Saturday, but February is National Heart Month. Today we’re sharing tips from health professionals to help you prevent heart disease. Adequate exercise and healthy meals are key to wellness.

“A healthy meal is balanced by eating something from every food group,” says Anne Hytrek, Dietitian and Diabetes Educator at the Ankeny Prairie Trail Hy-Vee, and member of the Iowa Food & Family Project’s Advisory Committee. “Many times excess calories are consumed when one eats more than the serving size for meat and grains per meal and thereby eating less vegetables.”

Eating a well-balanced diet is extremely important for overall health, adds Hytrek. Eating fruit and vegetables daily lowers the risk of serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. In spite of all these benefits, only 1 in 5 Americans eats the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

A healthy meal centers on the USDA’s food guidance system MyPlate, which recommends half the plate is composed of fruit and vegetables.  Hytrek explains the other half the plate is divided between protein like meat or cheese and grains such as bread, pasta or rice.  A serving of dairy, such as 1 cup low fat milk or yogurt, is also included. Pack fruits and vegetables for mid-morning and for mid-afternoon to help reach the 5 A Day goal.


To eat healthier Hytrek suggests:

  • Select any lean meat or protein first followed by a low fat cooking method such as grilling, broiling, roasting or baking.  Choose at least two different colors of vegetables to include in your meal.  Finally, choose whole grain foods to balance your meal that provide fiber to not only fill you up, but also help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol.
  • Cook from scratch as much as you can rather than relying on processed foods.  Use low fat dairy products and reduced fat/light condiments according to their serving size on the nutrition label.  Switch to Kosher salt, which is naturally one-third less in sodium than iodized salt. You will not notice a taste difference since the salt crystal is hollow inside and “pops” on the tongue a lot like pop rock candy!
  • Put a new twist on traditional foods. Try Greek yogurt topped with blueberries, aronia berries or strawberries that are rich in antioxidants. Replace traditional lettuce salads with greens like kale and spinach. Add fiber into your diet with 100% whole grain or ancient grains like quinoa or faro. Salmon and tuna are great sources of Omega 3 healthy fats.

“Hy-Vee dietitians are happy to set up personal shopping appointments where we can suggest heart healthy foods,” says. Hytrek “We can also provide a meal planning consultation with a physician’s referral to individualize meals, according to food preferences and schedules. And on, you can select meal solutions and access recipes tailored to special diet restrictions and individualize healthy eating.”

Blueberry Quinoa Salad with Aronia Vinaigrette



  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cup water
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 4 oz reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled (1 c.)
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup Sawmill Hallow Family Farms Aronia Cheyenne Vinaigrette



  1. For the salad, in a heavy sauté pan, toast the quinoa on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups water to boiling, then carefully pour water into the quinoa. Add salt to taste; cover, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl; let cool.
  3. Add blueberries, feta, walnuts, parsley and bell pepper. Toss, then add aronia vinaigrette and toss again.

Daily nutritional values:

15 % vitamin A 6% calcium
25% vitamin C 8% iron

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Calories: 180 Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 23g Saturated Fat: 1.5g
Cholesterol: 5mg Sodium: 230mg
Dietary Fiber: 3g Sugar: 8g
Fat: 7g Trans fats: 0g


Original recipe posted with permission from
Serves: 8