American Heart Month

Written by Lisa Larkin, Extension Associate

During the month of February, we are surrounded by symbols of Valentine’s Day and we see hearts everywhere we go. This makes February the perfect month for American Heart Month, and a good reminder for us to be heart healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cardiovascular disease – including heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – is the leading cause of death in Americans. Chances are you or someone you know has been told to eat a heart healthy diet.

According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a healthy diet should include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats such as those found in oil, seeds, nuts and fish. A healthy diet should be low in trans-fat, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. The best way to ensure that the food you are eating is healthy is to prepare it yourself. When you prepare meals yourself, you control what goes into them. When cooking meals, choose methods other than frying such as baking, roasting and grilling. Here are some heart healthy ingredient substitutions:

  • Instead of using butter, lard or other solid fats, use oils and cooking sprays.
  • Instead of adding salt for flavor, use herbs and spices. For example, instead of garlic salt, use fresh garlic or garlic powder. Use lemon pepper or lemon juice to season fish and chicken.
  • Instead of sour cream or mayonnaise, use low-fat plain yogurt.
  • Replace half the amount of butter or margarine with unsweetened applesauce when baking.
  • Instead of cream, whole milk or 2% milk, use 1% or skim milk.
  • Instead of regular cheese, use reduced-fat cheese or use less.

chicken salad

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

4 Servings

Recipe courtesy of

This recipe is made with three of the above suggestions by eliminating salt and using garlic powder, by using low-fat plain yogurt in place of mayonnaise and using lemon juice. I recently made this recipe for a SNAP-Ed class, and they loved it. The class has since been asking if I am going to make it for them again!


  • 1 lb. cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • ½ c. diced red onion
  • ½ c. diced apple
  • 2/3 c. grapes, halved
  • 1/3 c. dried cranberries
  • ¼ c. sliced almonds
  • ½ c. low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Black pepper to taste, optional
  • Whole grain bread or rolls


  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, red onion, apple, grapes, dried cranberries, sliced almonds, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic powder and pepper.


2. Serve on whole grain bread or rolls. 


Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 302, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 1 g (6% DV), Cholesterol 59 mg (20% DV), Sodium 437 mg (19% DV), Total Carbohydrate 33 g (25% DV), Dietary Fiber 4 g (18% DV), Total Sugars 14 g, Added Sugars 6 g, Protein 26 g, Vitamin A 1%, Vitamin C 9%, Calcium 11%, Iron 11% 

This post was reviewed by Carrie Miller, MS, RD, Extension Educator, and Morgan Hartline MS, RD, LMNT, SNAP-Ed Program Coordinator. Photos by Morgan Hartline. 


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