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Lifestyle Choices for Wellness

Timely discussion on topics of health and wellness to encourage action and improvement in personal wellness.
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Welcome Heart Month!

February is a month dedicated to hearts. Being the month of lovers with heart- shaped treats and trinkets in lieu of Valentines day may be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, this winter month's more infamous claim to fame is possibly more impactful. That right, February is American Heart Month: a salute to that ticker that keeps us going! Raising awareness and incorporating good health practices are in the spotlight for the next 28 days (and on a leap year, you get a bonus day!)

Heart disease is a major problem. Every year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year–that's 1 out of every 4 deaths. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. But the good news is heart disease is preventable and controllable.

While there are certain hereditary components we cannot control in regards to heart disease (and overall disease) prevention, lifestyle factors are the resources at our disposal in the prevention game. As a dietitian, it is my job to emphasize the importance of these controllable behaviors and help provide options for incorporating them into your life in a comfortable way. There are so many "heart healthy foods" within the walls of our grocery stores, some we are familiar with,others not as much. One of the most common, easy to make, and affordable foods is also brilliantly healthy for our hearts. I like mine pipping hot with blueberries and peanut butter in it, but sometimes I make it in a slow cooker with honey and peaches...or baked in cookies. Do you know this mystery super food?

That's right! It's oatmeal, the breakfast of champions!

A fellow University of Illinois Extension Registered Dietitian, Leia Kedem, explores the nutritional benefits of oatmeal in her nationally publicized article  Get Cozy and Healthy with a Warm Bowl of Oatmeal. She includes information such as "A half-cup serving of plain raw oats (which makes about 1 cup cooked) has 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, both necessary ingredients to start your day off right," and comments such as  "protein and fiber keep you feeling full throughout the morning, so your stomach's not rumbling again before you even get out the door." Find the full article here.

Here is another tried and true "salute to oatmeal" recipe from the University of Illinois Extension program "Meals for a Healthy Heart."

Toasted Coconut & Dark Chocolate Cookies

1 cup flaked sweetened coconut

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

? teaspoon salt

¾ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup trans-fat free margarine spread

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/2 c rolled oats

2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place coconut in a small baking pan, in a single layer. Bake until lightly toasted, stirring once. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until blended.
  4. Place brown sugar and margarine in a large bowl; beat with a mixer until well blended. Beat in vanilla and egg.
  5. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until combined.
  6. Stir in toasted coconut, oatmeal and chocolate.
  7. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets
  8. Bake for 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies begin to brown
  9. Remove from pan, and cool on wire racks

Makes about 30 cookies

Nutritional Information per serving (1 cookie): 70 calories, 3 grams total fat, (2 grams saturated fat,)10 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium, 11 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram protein

Recipe Notes:

  • This recipe has very little fat. Stick margarine generally has trans fats. Buy tub margarine but do not use light tub margarine or the cookie can become flat.

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