February is American Heart Month.  Heart disease is responsible for nearly 25% of all deaths in the United States.  Take this time (as you should during the rest of the year too) to make sure you get enough physical activity, eat healthier and get/keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar controlled.

Here are a few numbers to remember:

Total cholesterol: < 200 mg/dL
LDL ("bad" cholesterol): < 100 mg/dL (although 100-129 mg/dL is acceptable for people with no health issues
HDL ("good" cholesterol): ≥ 60 mg/dL is optimal; < 40 mg/dL is considered a major risk factor for heart disease

Normal blood pressure: < 120/80 mmHg
Elevated blood pressure: Systolic 120-129 mmHg / Diastolic < 80 mmHg
Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic 130-139 mmHg / Diastolic 80-89 mmHg
Stage 2 Hypertension: 140/90 mmHg
Hypertensive crisis: > 180/ > 120 mmHg

Normal Hemoglobin A1C: 4% - 5.6%
Pre-Diabetic: 5.7% - 6.4%
Diabetic: ≥ 6.5%

Waist Circumference:
Men ≤ 40 inches
Women ≤ 35 inches

All of these numbers can be managed by healthy eating!  I made a few heart-healthy goodies this month and I want to share them with you: Blueberry Mango Smoothie, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas, Tuna Melts, Heart Healthy Turkey Chili, Citrus Chicken with Quinoa Salad, Black Bean Brownies and Chocolate Nut Butter Cups.

Blueberry Mango Smoothie
(Adapted From: The American Heart Association)

Total Time: 5 minutes
Yields 1 serving

Ingredients
¾ cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
¾ cup light vanilla almond milk
¾ cup frozen, unsweetened blueberries
¾ cup frozen mango chunks
1 Tbsp honey
⅛ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
Add all ingredients to a blender.  Process until the mixture is completely smooth.  Pour and serve immediately.


Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas
(From: The Farmers Market Cookbook)

Total Time: 15 minutes
Yields 8 servings

Ingredients
1 large sweet potato
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp low-sodium taco seasoning
8 whole grain tortillas
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

Instructions
1. Pierce the skin of the sweet potato with a fork and microwave for 5 minutes on high and allow to cool slightly.  Cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl.  Mash sweet potato until smooth.

2. Add beans, cilantro and taco seasoning mix to the mashed sweet potato and mix well.

3. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Spread ⅛ of the sweet potato mixture evenly on half of a tortilla.  Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of cheese and fold tortilla in half.  Place the quesadilla in the skillet and cook 3-4 minutes, or until cheese starts to melt.  Flip and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until the tortilla is golden brown.


Tuna Melts
(Adapted from: Cooking Light magazine)

Total Time: 20 minutes
Yields 4 servings
Serving Size: 2 muffin halves        

Ingredients
⅓ cup chopped celery
3 Tbsp Vegenaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp lime juice
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 (12-oz can solid white tuna in water, drained
4 whole grain English muffins, split and toasted
8 slices tomato
½ cup shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese

Instructions
1. Preheat broiler.

2. Combine first 6 ingredients.  Spread 3 Tbsp tuna mixture onto each muffin half.  Top each with 1 tomato slice and 1 Tbsp cheese.  Broil 5 minutes or until cheese melts.


Heart Healthy Turkey Chili
(From: The Chunky Chef)

Total Time: 45 minutes    
Yields 4 servings

Ingredients
½ - 1 cup diced yellow onion
½ Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 Roma or plum tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 can (14 oz) red kidney beans, thoroughly rinsed
1½ cups chicken stock
1 can (14 oz) can tomato sauce
1½ Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp paprika
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 oz 100% cacao Baker's chocolate
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
1. In a large soup pot, add oil and heat to medium low, add onions and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often.

2.  Add minced garlic and cook, stirring often for 2 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium or medium high and add ground turkey, cook until browned, crumbling into small pieces.

4.  Add diced jalapenos, red peppers, tomatoes and saute for 1 minute.

5.  Add chicken stock, tomato sauce and apple cider vinegar and stir.

6.  Add in remaining ingredients and stir.

7.  Simmer over medium-low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Chili will thicken.  Feel free to add chicken stock as needed if chili gets too thick.

8.  Turn heat off after 40 minutes and let rest on the stove for another 5 minutes before serving.

9.  Add preferred toppings (e.g.,  green onion, cheese, sour cream, minced cilantro, diced avocado).


Citrus Chicken with Quinoa Salad
(From: Melissa Lanz, The Fresh 20)

Total Time: 20 minutes    
Yields 4 servings

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Instructions
1. In a 5-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and jalapeno and cook until translucent (~ 5 minutes).

2.  Stir in the paprika, salt and pepper until combined.

3.  Add the chicken and cook 10 minutes, until no longer pink.

4.  Toss in the corn, parsley and quinoa.  Stir to combine.


Black Bean Brownies
(From: Chocolate Covered Katie)

Total time: 15 minutes    
Yields 9-12 brownies

Ingredients
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ cup quick oats
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp sugar
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
⅔ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F.

2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until completely smooth.

3. Stir in the chocolate chips, then pour into a greased 8x8 pan.  Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top.

4. Cook brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut.  I placed mine in the refrigerator overnight to firm them up before I cut them!


Chocolate Nut Butter Cups
(From: Abbie Gellman)

Total Time: 30 min  
Yields 16 cups

Ingredients
1½ cups 70% dark chocolate chips
½ cup nut butter, room temperature

Instructions
1. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and continue for 10 second intervals until melted.

2. Place 16 mini muffin liners on a baking sheet or in a large container that will fit into the freezer.  Spoon a teaspoon of chocolate into each and place in the freezer for 5 minutes until set.

3. Remove from freezer and add 1-2 teaspoons of nut butter to each then add another 1-2 teaspoons of chocolate on top of the nut butter layer.

4. Place back in freezer and allow to set (~ 15 minutes).  Store in freezer until ready to eat.

Enjoy!!
Nina🍎


Website: www.ninasnutritionalvalues.com
Facebook: fb.me/nnvforlife
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