1. Control your portion size
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. 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.
Keep track of the number of servings you eat. A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you’re comfortable with your judgment.
2. Eat more vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.
Fruits and vegetables to choose
- Fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits
- Low-sodium canned vegetables
- Canned fruit packed in juice or water
Fruits and vegetables to limit
- Vegetables with creamy sauces
- Fried or breaded vegetables
- Canned fruit packed in heavy syrup
- Frozen fruit with sugar added
3. Select whole grains
Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.
Grain products to choose
- Whole-wheat flour
- Low-sodium canned vegetables
- Whole-grain bread, preferably 100% whole-wheat bread or 100% whole-grain bread
- High-fiber cereal with 5 g or more of fiber in a serving
- Whole grains such as brown rice, barley and buckwheat (kasha)
- Whole-grain pasta
- Oatmeal (steel-cut or regular)
Grain products to limit or avoid
- White, refined flour
- White bread
- Frozen waffles
- Corn bread
- Corn bread
- Quick breads
- Egg noodles
- Buttered popcorn
- High-fat snack crackers
4. Limit unhealthy fats
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.
The American Heart Association offers these guidelines for how much fat to include in a heart-healthy diet:
4. Limit unhealthy fats
Type of fat : Saturated fat
Recommendation: Less than 7% of your total daily calories, or less than 14 g of saturated fat if you follow a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet
The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats — butter, margarine and shortening — you add to food when cooking and serving. You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10 percent fat.
Fats to choose
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Vegetable and nut oils
- Margarine, trans fat free
- Cholesterol-lowering margarine, such as Benecol, Promise Activ or Smart Balance
- Nuts, seeds
Fats to limit
- Bacon fat
- Cream sauce
- Nondairy creamers
- Hydrogenated margarine and shortening
- Cocoa butter, found in chocolate
- Coconut, palm, cottonseed and palm-kernel oils
5. Choose low-fat protein sources
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.
Proteins to choose
- Low-fat dairy products such as skim or low-fat (1%) milk, yogurt and cheese
- Fish, especially fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon
- Skinless poultry
- Soybeans and soy products, such as soy burgers and tofu
- Lean ground meats
Proteins to limit or avoid
- Full-fat milk and other dairy products
- Organ meats, such as liver
- Fatty and marbled meats
- Hot dogs and sausages
- Fried or breaded meats
6. Reduce the sodium in your food
Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends:
- Healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt)
- People age 51 or older, African-Americans, and people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day
Low-salt items to choose
- Herbs and spices
- Salt substitutes
- Reduced-salt canned soups or prepared meals
- Reduced-salt versions of condiments, such as reduced-salt soy sauce and reduced-salt ketchup
High-salt items to avoid
- Table salt
- Canned soups and prepared foods, such as frozen dinners
- Tomato juice
- Soy sauce
7. Plan ahead: 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.
8. Allow yourself an occasional treat
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.
Incorporate these eight tips into your life, and you’ll find that heart-healthy eating is both doable and enjoyable. With planning and a few simple substitutions, you can eat with your heart in mind.
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- 3. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed Feb. 9, 2015.
- 4. Grains. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains.html. Accessed Feb. 9, 2015.
- 5. How to use fruits and vegetables to help manage your weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html. Accessed Feb. 9, 2015.
- 6. Flaxseed and flax oil. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/flaxseed/ataglance.htm. Accessed Feb. 10, 2015.
- 7. Know your fats. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp. Accessed Feb. 10, 2015.
- 8. Flaxseed. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Feb. 10, 2015.
- 9. Sea salt vs table salt. American Heart Association. http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/sodium-411/sea-salt-vs-table-salt/. Accessed Feb. 10, 2015.
- 10. Zeratsky KA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 20, 2015.
The contents are for informational purposes only and it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Wapmed does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned here.