Heart Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

By Team Ahimsa



Time to Read: 7 min

Why Heart Healthy Eating

By Nicole Harkin, MD, FACC

In honor of Heart Health Month, I’m so excited to chat heart-healthy eating tips with you! It may seem strange to think about heart health and your kiddos, but unfortunately, heart disease isn’t just for older people. Research has demonstrated that the beginnings of heart and vascular disease occur in our 20s. Almost half of all heart attacks and strokes occur in Americans aged 45 to 64 years of age. Also, rates of obesity and diabetes are on the rise in children.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! In fact, 80% of chronic disease is preventable. And at the cornerstone of this is hands down, diet. The choices we make now matter and can dramatically impact our chance of developing heart disease in the future! It’s so empowering to work together as a family to create a dietary game plan that fuels our bodies so we can live longer, be healthier, and feel better.

About Ahimsa

Founded by a pediatrician and mom of three

Stainless steel is the only kid-friendly material recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics 

We are guided by a Scientific Advisory Council comprised of environmental and medical experts, guiding us in creating the safest products, following the latest science and promoting policy to protect human health and our planet

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We know from a wealth of scientific research that eating more plants - vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), whole grains, nuts, and seeds - reduces our risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as many other chronic diseases. Everyone can stand to increase their intake of plants because they contain tons of fiber (vital for our gut health and blood sugar control) as well as vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, polyphenols, and antioxidants you can’t get anywhere else. It doesn’t mean you have to go completely whole food, plant-based to reap these benefits, but the more steps you and your family make toward consuming a more plant predominant diet, the better. It also just so happens that eating more plants happens to be very good for our planet (and the animals who live on it!). Win-win.

But how to do this practically? First and foremost, my motto - progress over perfection. Things get crazy, and not every day will be an Instagram worthy meal, and that is just fine. I’ve got three kiddos aged 11 months, 3.5 years, and 6 years, so I’m right there with you. Do your best to set yourself up for success, and when it doesn’t happen, give yourself grace and then keep on keeping on!

Here are some of my top #doctormom hacks for getting more plants into my family's mouths:

1. Start with 1 or 2 meatless meals a week

Unless you’re the rare type who likes to go all in at once, I suggest starting slow and incorporating 1 or 2 meatless meals per week. If you’ve already got Meatless Monday down, then I challenge you to add a second or third completely meat-free meal in. Going slow can also help beat bloat that can accompany too quick of an increase in fiber intake.

2. Your freezer is your friend! 

Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh! I always have tons of frozen veggies on hand for quick meals (think “fried” rice or veggie loaded pasta). Frozen fruit (and veggies like zucchini!) are a must have for smoothies, and a great way to get in lots of fruits and veggies into those picky kids. Double your soup recipes and freeze the other half for another night.

3. Modify your favorite dish

Modify some of your favorite meals with all veggie ingredients - either simply eliminate the meat, or substitute a plant-based alternative. One of my favorite substitutions is using lentils in place of ground beef for my dad’s lentil bolognese. Mushrooms, eggplant, lentils, and miso are good secret ingredients for satiety and/or umami flavor.

4. Focus on fitting in more plants, rather than taking things away

Approach each meal as an opportunity to nourish your body with more fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and minerals. For some, shifting your mindset to focus on what you are adding rather than eliminating can be immensely helpful. Even if you’re having meat at a meal, limit that portion to 1/4 of the plate and crowd it out with plants. Try to have the meat be the sideshow, rather than the main attraction.

5. Stock your pantry with all the basics

Shelf stable, healthy plant-based foods are great to have on hand for quick meals. Must haves include: oats, canned beans, lentils, whole grain or bean pastas, all the seeds and nuts (soaked, raw cashews make the most amazing dips and dressings!) and nut butters. Also, think outside the box, like olives, artichokes, or sun-dried tomatoes (just look for BPA-free packaging) to elevate salads and other dishes.

Mealtime Essentials

Nicole Harkin, MD, FACC, is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Echocardiography, Nuclear Cardiology, and Clinical Lipidology. She completed medical school at Boston University School of Medicine, internal medicine residency at Columbia University, and cardiology fellowship at New York University. Dr. Harkin recently moved to San Francisco, CA with her family and founded Whole Heart Cardiology, a preventive telecardiology practice with the mission of providing patient-centered cardiac care, merging evidence-based lifestyle and precision medicine.

She takes pride in helping patients achieve their goals, feel better, and thrive. When not doctoring, she spends the majority of her time with her three young children. She also enjoys cooking plant-based meals, yoga, Peloton-ing, hiking, and (under normal circumstances) traveling. 

Check out this blog post for the rest of my favorite heart healthy, plant-eating ideas, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I also share a lot of recipes, science, and other tips on Instagram. Heart healthy eating can be fun, easy, and enjoyable for the whole family!

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

About Ahimsa Founder Dr. Manasa Mantravadi

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi is a board-certified pediatrician whose dedication to children’s health drove her to launch Ahimsa, the world's first colorful stainless steel dishes for kids. She was motivated by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings on harmful chemicals in plastic affecting children's well-being. Ahimsa has gained widespread recognition and been featured in media outlets such as Parents Magazine, the Today Show, The Oprah Magazine, and more.

Dr. Mantravadi received the esteemed “Physician Mentor of the Year” award at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2019. She was also named a Forbes Next 1000 Entrepreneur in 2021, with her inspiring story showcased on Good Morning America. She serves on the Council for Environmental Health and Climate Change and the Council for School Health at The American Academy of Pediatrics. She represents Ahimsa as a U.S. industry stakeholder on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for the Global Plastics Treaty, led by the United Nations Environment Program. Dr. Mantravadi leads Ahimsa's social impact program, The Conscious Cafeteria Project, to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard student health as part of a national pilot of the Clinton Global Initiative.

She is dedicated to educating and empowering people to make healthier, more environmentally friendly choices at mealtime. Her mission remains to advocate for the health of all children and the one planet we will leave behind for them through real policy change within our food system.

More Mealtime Essentials

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use stainless steel instead of plastic? Is stainless steel better for health?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report in July 2018 suggesting ways that families can limit exposure to certain chemicals at mealtime, including “the use of alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.” The report explained that “…some additives are put directly in foods, while “indirect” additives may include chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard”. Further, “Children are more sensitive to chemical exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to body weight, than adults do, and are still growing and developing.” While stainless steel items meet the recommendation to avoid plastic products in children, Ahimsa® products have the obvious advantage of not breaking like glass.

Is stainless steel better for the environment than plastic?

According to the Steel Recycling Institute, steel can be recycled over and over and over again without losing its integrity and requires less energy to recycle than to make anew. Most plastic unfortunately ends up in landfills and it is estimated to take 700 years to decompose. Our special coloring process that allows Ahimsa® products to be fully metal is environmentally friendly, so it does not produce toxic run-off into the ecosystem.

Will Ahimsa products break or peel?

No. Our steel is durable, so it won’t break or shatter with everyday use, like glass. And it won’t peel, like other colored stainless steel products you’ve seen. We use a special process that allows the colors to naturally occur in the metal.

Which Ahimsa products are best for my little one(s)?

Our products are meant to last, you can use Ahimsa at ages 1, 8 and 18! We thoughtfully design our products to be safe for little ones and our planet while reducing consumption. Once your child outgrows the Starting Solids Set  and can use regular cups and utensils, the training cup is the perfect size rinse cup in the bathroom, the infant spoon doubles as a tea stirrer and the bowl is great for snacks or as an additional compartment to our modular divided plate. Our plates are great for any age as they encourage choosing a variety of healthy foods at each meal and help visualize portion sizes easily. It’s the lasting beauty of stainless steel - grows with your child and reduces waste.

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