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Family First - Small substitutions key to heart-healthy diet, dietitian says

February is Heart Health Month and doctors say one major way you can reduce your risk of heart disease is to eat healthy.

KRCG spoke with SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital Dietitian Denise Coots. She told us eating healthy for your heart is all about making doable changes - right from the start of your day.

"We typically tend to miss a whole meal of vegetables in our society," she said. “That meal is breakfast. Foods like bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, croissants, donuts… if we can add some vegetables in there, along with fruits, that would be my number one recommendation."

Coots said her go-to philosophy for any meal of the day is to try to switch out saturated fats for more fruits and veggies.

"Whenever you can see a visible fat on a piece of meat, that tends to be one of those plaque forming materials inside of our veins and our arteries,” she said. “Limiting those types of food, replacing them with healthier food, that's all part of a heart healthy diet.”

Coots said there’s still hope for those who can't imagine a world without bacon or cheeseburgers.

"For people who basically own a microwave and an empty refrigerator, we might go so far as to print off the nutritional value of their favorite fast food restaurants,” she said. “Then we highlight foods that are healthier alternatives on that menu, so they can still keep part of their lifestyle."

Making gradual changes when it comes to a healthy diet is worth the effort, according to Coots. She said implementing better eating habits can have a ripple effect on the entire family.

"Kids in general will do whatever their parents do, and when it comes to eating, they tend to follow suit as well," she said. “There are some studies out there that show heart disease can begin when a child is younger than ten years of age. Genetics isn't something we can fight. We can control what we put in our mouths."

This month, Coots suggests saying no to bacon and saying say yes to spinach in your omelet every once in a while – she said your heart and your loved ones will thank you in the long run.

Tune in to KRCG 13 at 5 p.m. next Friday for our next Family First segment, when we'll share tips and tricks for a successful transition to daylight savings time.

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