BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Eating a heart-healthy diet starts with small changes.

Dr. Carrie Lenneman, associate professor of cardiovascular disease at UAB, said people with high blood pressure should watch their salt intake. For those with high cholesterol or high triglycerides, unhealthy fats should be avoided. 

“Try to use a healthier fat,” Lenneman said. “The avocado, the nuts, the healthier oils such as olive oil.”

Portion size is a factor, too.

“A lot of times, you’re skewed when reading labels and it says there are four servings in the bag of chips,” Dr. Lenneman said. “And the patient eats the whole thing, not releasing that’s four times the calories, fat, salt.”

Small changes can add up to big changes in our health, according to registered dietitian Mim Gaines. 

“Being able to focus on the foods that you can have, instead of the foods you can’t have, is a very great way to look at it,” Gaines said. “We want you to eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can.” 

At home, she recommends swapping the table salt for herbs and spices to help add flavor to meals.

While eating out, Gaines said to start a dialogue with your server so you can know exactly what is going in your food. 

“A lot of people are hesitant to do that, they think it’s a waste of time, why are you asking all these questions about your food preparation. But to know what you’re putting in your mouth, I would strongly encourage that.”  

Small changes like asking for no added butter or sauce on the side can add up in a big way. 

Gaines provided CBS 42 with some recipes using green leafy vegetables:

Squash and Kale Sauté


· ½ butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes

· ½ bunch kale, washed and chopped

· 1 small onion, chopped

· 2 cloves garlic, minced

· 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice

· 1½ cups diced fresh tomatoes

· 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


1. Heat oil in frying pan on medium. Add onion and garlic. Sauté 3 minutes or until onion is soft.

2. Stir in squash and sauté 1 minute.

3. Add tomato. Cover pan, increase heat to medium -high, and bring to a boil. Adjust heat to simmer. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until squash is tender.

4. Add kale. Cover and cook another 5 minutes.

Makes: 5 servings (1 cup each)

Nutrition Information: CALORIES 120 (30 from fat); FAT 3.5g (sat fat 0g); CHOLESTEROL 0mg; SODIUM 150mg; CARBOHYDRATE 22g; FIBER 4g; PROTEIN 4g; CALCIUM 15%; IRON 10%

(source: Cornell University Cooperative Extension Office)

Mediterranean Squash Stew


· ½ butternut squash (3 cups cubed)

· 1 cup flour

· ¼ bunch kale (2 cups chopped)

· ½ onion (1/2 cup chopped)

· 2 cloves garlic

· 1¾ cups diced tomatoes

· 1 tablespoon lemon juice

· 1 tablespoon brown sugar

· 1 teaspoon mustard

· 1 teaspoon oregano

· 1 teaspoon salt

· 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

· 2 cups cooked rice


1. Peel and seed squash. Cut into ½-inch cubes.

2. Wash and chop kale.

3. Chop onion and mince garlic.

4. To make sauce: combine tomatoes, lemon juice, brown sugar, mustard, oregano and salt in medium bowl; set aside.

5. Heat oil in frying pan on medium. Add onion and garlic. Sauté 3 minutes or until onion is soft.

6. Stir in squash and sauce. Cover pan, increase heat to medium-high and cook 15 minutes or until squash is tender.

7. Add rice and kale. Cover and cook 5 minutes.

Makes: 5-6 servings

Nutrition Information: CALORIES 180 (20 from fat); FAT 2.5g (sat 0g); CHOLESTEROL 0mg; SODIUM 500mg; CARBOHYDRATE 36g; FIBER 4g; PROTEIN 4g; CALCIUM 10%; IRON 10%

(source: Cornell University Cooperative Extension Office)