February 5, 2020

Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tips + Chicken Quinoa Soup Recipe

by Lauren Hoover, MS RD

It’s finally February, which means the official start to American Heart Month! To begin the month in both an educational and flavorful way, we are sharing some heart-healthy lifestyle tips along with a tasty Chicken Quinoa Soup recipe for those cold winter nights.

Heart disease can happen at almost any age, so American Heart Month is the perfect opportunity to take the time to learn about how you can reduce your risk. The top three risk factors for developing heart disease include smoking, high blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure. While some risk factors are non-modifiable, there are several risk factors you can reduce through lifestyle changes. See below for guidelines on how to take control of your heart health.

  1. Choose heart-healthy fats, reduce saturated fats, and avoid trans fats –The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake and avoiding any artificial trans fats and hydrogenated fats. Here are four ways to increase your heart-healthy fat consumption:
    1. Eat cold-water fish at least twice per week. Aim to choose fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, lake trout, mackerel, and sardines to get essential omega-3 fatty acids.
    2. Incorporate nuts and seeds into your snacks. Add 1 oz. (a handful) of unsalted nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds to help give you healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
    3. Add avocado. Slice on top of your salad or use as a spread for your sandwich to incorporate healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
    4. Choose the right oils. For cooking and dressings, aim for oils lower in saturated fats and higher in monounsaturated fats. Choose from avocado, olive, peanut, sesame, grapeseed, walnut, flaxseed, and sunflower oils.
  2. Aim for low sodium options – The majority of sodium in our diets comes from packaged foods and foods from restaurants. Find out more about how to reduce your sodium intake by checking out the CDC You can also flavor your food with non-salt options, which we will be posting about later this month.
  3. Increase soluble fiber intake – Dietary fiber (especially soluble fiber) prevents the absorption of cholesterol in your blood. Aim to eat 25-30 grams of fiber daily from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Examples of foods high in soluble fiber include steel-cut oats, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and flaxseeds.
  4. Be mindful of carbohydrate portions – Aim for SHIFT’s Balanced Plate proportions (1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein, and 1/4 complex carbohydrates) at meals, and try to get your carbohydrates from either fruits or complex sources like starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  5. Maintain an active lifestyle – Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Talk to a SHIFT Fitness Coach for assistance in developing a program that is right for your heart.
  6. Reduce alcohol intake and quit smoking – Talk with a SHIFT Physician about strategies for making lifestyle and behavior changes to reduce your overall risk.

Need a meal to kick off American Heart Month? Try out this Chicken Quinoa Soup. It contains plenty of non-starchy vegetables, fiber-filled beans and quinoa, and shredded chicken breast for lean protein. Additionally, the soup is flavored using ingredients without sodium, like garlic, ginger, lemon, bay leaves, and rosemary. Who said low-sodium meals should be bland? This is a great meal to prep ahead of time because it is easy to throw together and can be re-heated for lunches and dinners throughout the week. Enjoy!


Chicken Quinoa Soup

Makes 8 servings

Ingredient List

2 T. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 t. fresh grated ginger

3 large carrots (peeled, halved, and sliced)

3 large celery stalks, sliced

1 yellow onion, diced

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 (15 oz.) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (or cannellini beans are great as well!)

3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs of rosemary

¾ cup uncooked quinoa

¼ t. salt

¼ t. cumin

Black pepper to taste

1 lemon, zested and juiced


  1. Cook the chicken. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay chicken breasts on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt/pepper. Bake until just cooked through (~20-25 minutes). Shred with 2 forks, set aside.
  2. Saute the veggies. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium/high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, ginger and lemon zest. Stir around for 5-7 minutes, until veggies have softened.
  3. Add ingredients. Add the chicken broth, beans, shredded chicken, bay leaves, rosemary, quinoa, salt, pepper and cumin. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves, rosemary. Add juice of 1 lemon.
  4. Refrigerate for later or enjoy immediately!

Nutrition Breakdown

Nutrient Amount per serving


Energy 260 calories
Total Fat 5.8 grams
     (Saturated Fat) 1.0 grams
Total Carbohydrates 30 grams
     (Dietary Fiber) 7.4 grams
     (Sugar) 4 grams
Protein 17 grams


american heart month, heart health, Recipe of the month

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