Shop Heart-Friendly

March 27, 2008

Common sense is the way to approach a heart-healthy diet. But too often, cardiologists hear the same complaints over and over from their patients regarding just what to buy after cardiac recovery.

No doubt one of the many complaints some cardiologists hear from patients during cardiac recovery is a familiar refrain: “What can we buy in the supermarket after all this?’’ is the oft-mentioned question.

I remember, not long after my cardiac event July 20, 2006, Jim McCaffrey, who owns a small chain of supermarkets in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, suffered a heart attack himself. Upon shopping in one of his stores soon after, he felt there were “about two items’’ he could buy on a cardiac diet.

As one who shops at his Yardley, Pa., store regularly - the outlet that hosts the highly regarded “Cooking with the Cardiologist’’ series periodically - I can say there are many choices one can come across in that establishment. My wife and I accomplished this by reading labels and ingredients. That allows you to fill your cart with things that are good and good for you. Common sense is the way to approach it.

Cardiologists, however, now have a special website to direct patients to. The American Heart Association’s site has a topic “Grocery Shop Smarter Faster.’’

Under the link, the site directs heart-conscious consumers to “look for the heart-check mark to quickly find foods certified to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Build your free, heart-healthy grocery list online. Save and print your list, or access it anytime from your computer or Web-enabled mobile phone or PDA.’’

It’s a modern touch to assist both the patient and the guiding physician, and a useful one at that. Click on the link and a list of 14 categories appears on your computer screen, ready to guide you to heart-healthy food shopping. In each categories are items to add to your list.

  • The beverage category features all types of juices and other offerings. Florida Natural Calcium and Vitamin D with No Pulp is an example of a refrigerated juice, several soy milks are mentioned as “Other Beverages.’’
  • Bread featues such items as Tumaro’s Chipotle and Peppers Flour Tortillas and Pepperidge Farm 100 percent Whole Wheat Bread.
  • Breakfast Foods list Cherrios as passing the test, along with Kellogg’s All-Bran.
  • Soups tell a shopper several Campbell’s Chunky Healthy Request offerings are fine.
  • Dairy Case features fat-free cheeses and milk products.
  • Deli Meats notes Boars’ Head Chicken and Turkey offeings among the chosen.
  • The Desserts category has a list of Healthy Choice Low Fat Ice Creams. Our favorite is the Breyers Free (fat free) line.
  • Frozen Foods include Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes. Another interesting choice here is bison steak.
  • Fruits and Vegetables include many items that hit the spot in both taste and health.
  • Fresh Meat and Poultry features some lean beef, but also much turkey.
  • Pasta and Sauces lists a whole-grain variety of pastas with no-salt added tomato paste and ready-made sauces.
  • Seafood stresses tuna and salmon in water. Most fish (as long as it is not fried) make a key ingredient in eating healthy.
  • Snacks mention the low-fat popcorn choices available.
  • My Items is the area in which to personalize your list.

Personally, I found the online list to be of help in formulating a cardiac-healthy trip to the market, but, like any general guide, it can be modified to any taste.

Such Omega-3 rich fish as salmon are in our diet at least twice a week. If you have just begun heart-healthy food shopping, this is definitely worth a look.