- Watch Your Portion Sizes
The things you eat are important, but how much you eat matters just as much. Here are a few tips:
- • Control your portions: Use a small plate or bowl to help control the amount of food you eat.
- • Understand the portions your body needs: Eat larger portions of foods high in nutrients and low in calories, like fruits and vegetables. Eat smaller portions of foods high in calories or sodium, like processed or fast food.
- • Track your servings: Using common measurements, track the number of servings you eat. Use measuring cups, spoons or a scale until you get an idea of what a serving looks like.
- Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals, and are low in calories. They can help prevent cardiovascular disease, and eating more fruits and vegetables can curb your appetite for other high-fat foods. Keep fruits and vegetables washed and available for snacking, and choose recipes with lots of vegetables. Limit your consumption of canned fruit with heavy syrup, frozen fruits, veggies with creamy sauces, or veggies that are fried or breaded.
- Substitute With Whole Grains
Whole grains provide fiber and other important nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and promote heart health. Substitute whole grains for refined grains wherever possible, and try new whole grains. Watch out for:
- • White, refined flour
- • White bread
- • Muffins
- • Frozen waffles
- • Corn bread
- • Donuts
- • Biscuits
- • Quick breads
- • Cakes or pies
- • Egg noodles
- • Buttered popcorn
- • High-fat snack crackers
Instead, emphasize whole-wheat and whole-grain replacements.
- Limit Unhealthy Fats in Your Diet
Saturated and trans fats can increase your risk of coronary artery disease, and reducing these fats in your diet can lower your cholesterol and decrease the risks of both CAD and heart attacks or strokes. Saturated fat should take up under 7 percent of your daily calories (under 14 grams if you follow a 2,000-calorie-per-day plan), while trans fats should make up under 1 percent of your daily calories (under 2 grams for a 2,000-calorie plan).
Some tips to accomplish this include:
- • Reduce solid fats like butter, margarine and shortening. Trim fat off meat, and choose lean meats with lower fat content.
- • Use low-fat substitutions wherever possible.
- • Check food labels on snacks—even some labeled “reduced fat” are made with trans fat oils.
- • Choose monounsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil. Also look for polyunsaturated fats found in some fish, avocados, nuts and seeds.
- • Consider flaxseed—this can help lower cholesterol for some people.
- • Limit foods like butter, lard, bacon fat, gravy, cream sauce, non dairy creamers, hydrogenated margarine and shortening, cocoa butter, and coconut, palm or cottonseed oils.
- Incorporate Low-Fat Protein into Your Diet
Low-fat protein choices include:
- • Lean meat
- • Poultry and fish—coldwater fish like salmon, mackerel and herring are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats.
- • Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids: flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.
- • Legumes: beans, peas and lentils are all good sources of protein and contain limited fat and no cholesterol.
- • Avoid whole milk, organ meats like liver, fatty and marbled meats, spareribs, hot dogs, sausages, bacon and any fried or breaded meats.
- Reduce Your Sodium Intake
Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Here are recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services:
- • No more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day for healthy adults.
- • No more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day for anyone over age 51, African-Americans, people with high blood pressure, people with diabetes or people with chronic kidney disease.
Reducing added salt to food is important, as is reducing the meals you eat from canned and processed foods—these have a high sodium content. Look for low-sodium options if you must go this route, and look for ways to eat fresh food whenever possible. Be careful with condiment selection, too—condiment substitutes can be valuable. Limit table salt, canned and frozen foods, tomato juice and soy sauce.
- Plan Your Meals
One great way to stay on track with your heart-healthy diet is to plan ahead. Create daily menus emphasizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Track portion sizes and mix things up regularly to keep it fresh.
Don’t be afraid to allow yourself a treat every so often. One brief departure from your diet won’t derail you entirely—as long as you can keep it brief. If you find overindulgence becomes too regular, you may have to avoid these treats.
For more on keeping a heart-healthy diet, speak to your doctor for recommendations.
“Heart-healthy diet: 8 steps to prevent heart disease.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702?pg=1
“Heart disease and diet.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002436.htm