Heart Healthy Foods

green and red healthy foodFebruary is Heart Health month, but we should be consuming foods and performing exercises that help our hearts year-round. Cardiovascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. The good news is that some little habits can make a big difference in your ability to live a healthy lifestyle.  Here are some heart healthy foods/beverages that should be a staple in your nutrition regimen to promote heart health:

fruit and granola

  • Berries contain compounds known as anthocyanins, flavonoids (which are antioxidants) and help to decrease blood pressure and dilate blood vessels.
  • Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C,which has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease.  Women who consume high amounts of the flavonoids found in oranges and grapefruits have a 19% lower risk of ischemic stroke (caused by a clot) than women who don’t get as much of these compounds, a recent study found.  Beware of citrus juices that contain added sugar. And be aware that grapefruit products may interfere with the action of the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.
  • Dark Chocolate: Several studies have now shown that dark chocolate may benefit your heart, including one in 2012 that found that daily chocolate consumption could reduce nonfatal heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk for these problems. The findings applied only to dark chocolate, meaning chocolate made up of at least 60-70% cocoa. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids called polyphenols, which may help blood pressure, clotting, and inflammation. Unfortunately, milk chocolate and most candy bars don’t make the grade when it comes to protecting your heart.
  • Greens: green vegetables may give an extra boost to your heart. These are high in carotenoids, which act as antioxidants and free your body of potentially harmful compounds. They’re also high in fiber and contain tons of vitamins and minerals. Kale also has some omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Green Tea: Long a favorite in Asia, green tea has grown more popular in the West and may bring with it significant health benefits. One recent study found that people who drank four or more cups of green tea daily had a 20% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke compared with people who “seldom” imbibed the beverage. The findings echo a previous study that found lower rates of death, including death from heart disease, among avid drinkers of green tea. Antioxidants known as catechins may be responsible for the effect.
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados are getting the “good fat” attention they deserve recently. In a landmark study, people at high risk for heart disease who followed the Mediterranean diet (high in grains, fruits, vegetables) supplemented by nuts and at least four tablespoons a day of olive oil reduced their risk of heart attacks, strokes, and dying by 30%. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Coconut oil is considered a superfood (for its high nutrient density) and is packed full of essential fatty acids and has a myriad of health benefits. People who eat consume lots of coconut are claimed to be among the healthiest people on the planet. Like olive oil, avocados are rich in the monounsaturated fats that may lower heart disease risk factors, such as cholesterol. They’re also high in antioxidants and in potassium.
  • Legumes: Because they come from plants, legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of protein without a lot of unhealthy fat. One study found that people who ate legumes at least four times a week had a 22% lower risk of heart disease compared with those who consumed them less than once a week. And legumes may help control blood sugar in people with diabetes. Lowering blood sugar levels is key in helping people avoid diabetes complications, one of which is heart disease.
  • Omega-3 packed fish (wild caught or sustainably farmed). These include salmon, mackerel, sardines. Why eat this? They contain copious amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, shown in studies to lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and decrease triglycerides.
  • Nuts –  including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts and macadamia nuts – contain good-for-your-heart fiber. They also contain vitamin E, which helps lower bad cholesterol. And some, like walnuts, are high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Look for varieties that don’t have a lot of added salt.
  • Potatoes – as long as they’re not deep fried – can be good for your heart. They’re rich in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. And they’re high in fiber, which can lower the risk for heart disease.

flax crackers and hummus

  • Seeds: Flax seeds as well as chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are high in fiber content. Plus, there are a million ways to enjoy them. Try them ground up with other heart-healthy foods, such as dried blueberries, cranberries, or oatmeal.
  • Whole grains, such as oatmeal, are high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol. Try whole grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth served with vegetables and omega 3-rich fish like salmon and get a triple heart healthy meal.

Maury Students Can be Heart Heroes

Heart Hero.jpg
This month your child has the opportunity to be a “Heart Hero” and raise funds for research in heart disease and stroke.  The “Event” will be fun cardiovascular exercise stations held during your child’s PE class (February 29-March 5th) and the end of our fundraising period will be Friday, March 5th.
A few notes:
#1- I 100% understand we do A LOT of fundraising for so many different things at Maury… that being said, there is no minimum or maximum amount your child is supposed to raise.  It is totally up to them if they want to participate and earn prizes!
#2- Take the time this month to have a conversation with your child about healthy living and ways you can keep your heart healthy and why it’s important.  They know more than you might think!!
#3- You can go to http://www.heart.org/jump (Maury may not be listed yet, but you can still sign up online as a new participant).
#4- Make an extra effort to exercise with and create healthy snacks and meals with your child!  Teach them healthy habits so they can live long, healthy lives!
Thank you again for your support in all that we do at Maury!
Ms. Raymond

Healthy Fall Recipe Ideas

Fall is full of so many colorful whole foods packed with phytonutrients that nourish our bodies! The School Wellness Committee has compiled some recipe links to get your taste buds watering and your iron chef skills sharpening.

Delicious, Healthy Fall recipes to expand your foodie palate:

shutterstock_224254438Looking for some creative and healthy recipe ideas for Thanksgiving? Check out these options:

Get some Healthy Home Thanksgiving Prep Ideas from the Honest Company’s 7 Quick Tips for Turkey Day

10 Ideas for Fall Family Fun


Crisp temperatures and colorful hues make this month the perfect time to get outdoors with the family. Here is a quick list of activities to add to your family’s fall bucket list.

  1. Make a pile of leaves and JUMP! Grab your rakes, pile some leaves, and watch the joy that comes to your kids’ faces as they dive in. Don’t forget to grab your camera as this is guaranteed to provide some great photo ops!
  2. Plant a fall garden Gardening is a great way for kids to learn environmental awareness and discover. An added bonus: they get to play in dirt. Plant wallflowers for spring color or use containers to create winter color. TIP: Use kid-sized gardening tools, and let kids help push a small wheel barrow or pull a small wagon for added movement.
  3. Take a thankfulness walk Hit the sidewalks with a camera for kids to take pictures of everything they are thankful for. You may be surprised by what they come up with. Create a photo collage later to keep on display in your home as a reminder of gratitude.
  4. Go on a scavenger hunt Keep it simple. Use real coins or chips from a game. Tell kids either exactly where to go or provide clues. For an added twist, tell kids to hop, skip, bear crawl or whatever you choose to get to the next clue.  Do this anywhere! Create your own rules and have fun! Don’t forget to provide a healthy snack like fruit at the end!
  5. Build an obstacle course Grab what you can find – jumprope, hula hoops, tunnels, cones, balls. Or forget the props and use what you see at your neighborhood park. Incorporate movements like running, modified push ups on a bench, side drills, high knees, skipping, jumping, etc. Keep it to a few things for younger ones.
  6. Visit the National Zoo This is a great way to exercise, explore and get the whole family moving. You gotta love the National Zoo hill. Park and walk up and down.
  7. Walk through Rock Creek Park Release some pent up energy on one of the many playgrounds, lunch at one of the picnic spots, and see how many leaves you can gather along the way.
  8. Explore the National Mall Families visit D.C. from across the country to enjoy the treasures in our very own backyard. Washingtonians can get out and walk the Mall too.
  9. Bike the C&O Canal Start in Georgetown and bike, scooter or walk the C&O canal. The markers every half-mile will show how far you go.
  10. Play at Watkins Regional Park This is a great place for all ages. The remodeled Wizard of OZ playground offers so many options for moving and imagining. Explore the nature center and animals. Or just take a family hike and soak in the harvest hues.

The point is to get OUTSIDE and get MOVING. We want to see Maury Families on the Move! Send photos to dmcardamone@yahoo.com, and we will post them next month. Have fun!

Start a New Family Tradition – Thanksgiving Fresh Air Friday

thMany families have been lured into the tradition of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. But, shopping can be stressful and may not bring your family closer together.  Maybe your family is ready to start a new tradition centered around fresh air – Fresh Air Friday.  Make Black Friday an outdoor day and enjoy time with family unplugged.   Check out our post entitled, “10 Ideas for Fall Family Fun” for some suggestions on where you can get outside and reboot.

After your adventures, you can share some photos on the Maury Facebook page or tweet your pics with the hashtag #MauryFreshAirFriday!

Take a moment of Gratitude this Thanksgiving Holiday


Thanksgiving is a great time to be with the people you care about – whether family or friends. We often spend a lot of time focusing on meal preparation, hosting, or traveling to someone else’s home. Many of us have a tradition of giving thanks or offering a blessing. Regardless of whether you have a religious affiliation or not, creating a gratitude ritual can be good for your health and your mental well-being.

The Huffington Post cites several studies showing positive educational benefits for children who practice gratitude in the article “10 Reasons Why Gratitude is Healthy,” including:

  • Researchers… found that teens who are grateful — in the study, defined as having a positive outlook on life — are more well-behaved at school and more hopeful than their less-grateful peers
  • Grateful high-schoolers have higher GPAs — as well as better social integration and satisfaction with life — than their not-grateful counterparts, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies
  • Gratefulness is linked with optimism, which in turn is linked with better immune health, WebMD reported. For example, a University of Utah study showed that stressed-out law students who were optimistic had more immune-boosting blood cells than people who were pessimistic, according to WebMD.

While this research is demonstrating benefits in older children, it’s the habits that are formed early on in childhood that can pave a more positive path for children as they get older.

For adults, gratitude can have many stress-reducing benefits, help us sleep better, strengthen relationships with our partners and increase our patience with our children, among other positive well-being outcomes.

This Thanksgiving, ask those you celebrate with to name three things they are grateful for and challenge them to make a gratitude list at the end of every day (or most days) from that day forward. You’ll be thankful you did!!

Maury Family Turkey Trot

The Maury School Wellness Committee Presents…Family Turkey Trot

  • When: Saturday, November 21st 
  • Time: 9:00am-10:00am
  • Where: Meet at Lincoln Park

Let’s kick off this holiday season with a morning of fun, fitness, and family for all ages and fitness levels!

We will meet at Lincoln Park and you can choose to walk or run around Lincoln Park or around the Capitol and back (about 3 miles)!  The purpose of our Family Turkey Trot is to exercise together, so be sure to dress to move – an adult must accompany all children.

Please bring your own water!

Welcome to the Maury Elementary School Wellness Committee blog

We had a great time at the School Wellness Committee’s Family Fitness Night Wednesday October 21, where we told many of you about this new initiative. We are excited to share with you details about the SWC happenings here as well as Family Health and Fitness ideas that you can engage in at home!

Keep reading for this week’s posts!

the Maury School Wellness Committee

Family Fitness Night with Mayor Muriel Bowser

October 21, 2015 marked the 2nd Annual Family Fitness Night at Maury. A big thanks to the lead coordinator Ms. Raymond who pulled together a great event with the help of the School Wellness Committee. There were a total of 14 fitness and wellness vendors present that created great stations and activities for Maury students and their families. A big shout out and thank you to all the staff and parent volunteers as well as the vendors who participated: American Parkour, ATLAS Fitness, Breaking Space Yoga, Capital City Karate, Capital Speedskating, Capitol Hill Yoga, District Sports/Soccer, Dr. Matt Levy, East Side Yoga, Mike Posey/First Tee Golf, Ms. Benita May-Douglas/Dental Health, Old City Crossfit, Tippi Toes, VIDA Fitness.

Atlas Fitness (below) was among the fitness vendors that created challenging and fun stations for Maury students.


One of the night’s biggest bonuses was a visit by Mayor Muriel Bowser who toured the school and even participated in a couple of the fitness activities.


The evening ended with a fun auction of items donated by local businesses, including some Maury parents. The great turnout was a testament to the Maury community’s enthusiasm for fitness!


Healthy Halloween Ideas

It’s Halloween Week! That means lots of extra sugary treats for the kids. But not all fun-filled Halloween snacks have to be laden with refined sugar that can affect kids’ immune systems, dental health, behavior, and much more.

Chew Chew Mama has some great ideas to healthier spins on clever and Spooky treats. These are also nut-free and safe for most kids, even those with food allergies.

If you are not a Pinterest parent yet, you’re missing out on endless ideas for just about everything under the sun, including lots and lots of Healthy Halloween ideas.

If you are planning to bring Halloween themed snacks to school, please consider any of these 8 Healthy Treats for Classroom Halloween Parties.

There a multiple Maury families that have to be extra careful with their children’s consumption due to food allergies and many families are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project.  Launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) in 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project™ raises awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. Be one of the families to take the Teal Pumpkin Pledge HERE and make Halloween safe for all trick-or-treaters!