Tips for a Heart-healthy diet
Apply these tips into your life, and you’ll discover that heart healthy eating is both enjoyable and doable.
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat.
You need to control your portion size. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should. Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods. This strategy can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.
Consume more fruits and green leafy vegetables
Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet can be easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your kitchen so that you’ll remember to eat it. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredients, such as vegetable stir-fry or fresh fruit mixed into salads.
Limit saturated and trans fats
A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaques in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Limiting how much saturated and trans fats you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease.
Eat more fish and choose low-fat protein sources
Fish is another good alternative to high-fat meats. And certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. You’ll find the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and eggs are some of your best sources of protein. But be careful to choose lower fat options, such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts rather than fried chicken patties. Other sources are flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.
Reduce sodium in your food
Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Plan a daily menu
Create daily menus. Create daily menus using the six strategies listed above. When selecting foods for each meal and snack, emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Choose lean protein sources and healthy fats, and limit salty foods. Watch your portion sizes and add variety to your menu choices. You know what foods to feature in your heart-healthy diet and which ones to limit. Now it’s time to put your plans into action.
Treat yourself occasionally
Allow yourself an indulgence every now and then. A candy bar or handful of potato chips won’t derail your heart-healthy diet. But don’t let it turn into an excuse for giving up on your healthy-eating plan. If overindulgence is the exception, rather than the rule, you’ll balance things out over the long term. What’s important is that you eat healthy foods most of the time.