Taking Care of Your Ticker

Love is in the air in early February as we anticipate Valentine’s Day. It’s an easy leap to thinking about heart health so we can enjoy more Valentine’s Days to come.

If you think your food choices should be more heart healthy, what better place to look for information than the American Heart Association (AHA)? The website contains lots of suggestions for improving your health and being kitchen-savvy. If you have fallen away from those New Year resolutions already, this is a good time to get back on that horse!

Sometimes when people try to eat healthier, they know most of the foods they should lighten up on and they ask, “What can I eat?” You will find lots of information on the AHA website, but below is some general guidance.

Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories.

To get the nutrients you need, plan your meals and snacks to include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • 100% whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Poultry, fish, beans and nuts


Many folks complain that it costs too much to buy the above-listed foods. While you might spend a bit more for some of them, you can find the money to pay for them by reducing your consumption of your favorites that have fewer nutrients. Why not make a list of less nutritious foods you buy? Then, spend that money to try some new, healthier choices. The least expensive foods will be the ones you prepare at home. Try some of these heart-healthy and budget-friendly suggestions:

  • Substitute for sugary/carbonated drinks with: water, plain or flavored with slices of lemon, oranges or cucumber, powdered artificially-sweetened drink mixes
  • When the sweet tooth hits, bake your own cookies and muffins to control the ingredients. Replace some or all of the oil with applesauce and use one-half to two-thirds of the sugar stated in the recipe. Try: Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins
  • Try adding beans to baked goods, like: Black Bean Brownies. Recipe below.
  • Replace commercial chips with homemade chips. Try: Baked Tortilla Chips or veggie chips: Sweet Potato Nachos


Need some help? You will find much more information on the AHA website, including Healthy Eating, Simple Cooking with Heart, Heart-Smart Shopping, Heart-Healthy Recipes, and Dining Out. If you are a novice cook, check out the videos and other organizational tips. Simply go to the AHA Nutrition Center.

You can find lots of budget-friendly, healthy recipes at: What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

Let’s keep that ticker ticking!


Black Bean Brownies


  • 1 can (15 to 16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ c. cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee (optional)
  • ½ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 3500 F. Lightly grease an 8- by 8-inch baking dish. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a blender; blend until smooth; pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake in preheated oven until top is dry and sides start to pull away from the baking dish; about 30 minutes.

Makes 16 servings.

Per serving: 140 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 105 mg sodium.

Recipe source: North Dakota State University Extension Service