Eat Heart Healthy
We know that making healthy choices about meals and snacks can be tough. That's especially true if you don’t know which foods are best for your heart or how much of them you should eat. Lucky, a few simple guidelines can help you make sense of it all. Remember, heart healthy food can be delicious!
What makes a meal plan “heart healthy”?
A heart healthy meal plan helps you control your risk factors by keeping your fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure low. Every day, you should try to get:
- less than 30 percent of your calories from fat (no more than 8 to 10 percent from saturated fat)
- less than 300 mg of cholesterol
- less than 2400 mg of sodium
How much food is enough food?
Understanding serving size doesn't have to be difficult! Check out our information on recommended portion sizes. Your goal should be to take in enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, but not more than that--easier said than done, we agree! To decide how many calories you should consume each day, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist. Always make sure to consult your doctor before making major diet changes.
What foods should you eat?
There are six food groups, each with its own daily serving recommendation. Below is a list of some examples of heart healthy choices for each food group, but don’t let this list limit you. Explore the food shelves at your grocery store and create your own shopping list of heart healthy foods you enjoy.
Food group: milk, yogurt, and cheese
Daily recommendation: 2-3 servings
Suggested foods: fat free or 1% milk; cheese with 3 grams of fat or less per serving; low-fat or non-fat yogurt
Food group: meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts
Daily recommendation: 2-3 servings
Suggested foods: lean cuts of meat; chicken or turkey (white or light meat); white meat fish; luncheon meats (95-99% fat free); shellfish;* dry peas and beans; reduced fat peanut butter; tofu; eggs, egg whites, or egg substitutes
Food group: vegetables
Daily recommendation: 3-5 servings
Suggested foods: any fresh, frozen, or canned** vegetables without cream or cheese sauce
Food group: fruit
Daily recommendation: 2-4 servings
Suggested foods: any fresh, canned, dried, or frozen fruits without added sugar; fresh or frozen juices without added sugar
Food group: bread, cereal, rice, and pasta
Daily recommendation: 6-11 servings
Suggested foods: whole wheat bread; bagels; grains; soft corn or whole wheat tortillas; low fat crackers including saltines or rice crackers; spaghetti or macaroni noodles
Food group: fats, oils, and sweets
Daily recommendation: use sparingly
Suggested foods: low fat cookies such as animal crackers, devil’s food cookies, fruit bars, ginger snaps, or wafers; angel food cake or other low-fat cakes; low-fat frozen yogurt, sorbet, or sherbet; margarine; vegetable oils including canola, olive, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, and sesame oils
Are all healthy foods created equal?
Within each food group, there are good foods and bad foods. For example, white bread is less nutritious than wheat bread because it contains less fiber and fewer vitamins, and low-fat yogurt is better for you than regular yogurt. Many prepared and frozen foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Look for frozen food packages that say, "Light," "Lean," "Reduced Fat," "Reduced calorie," "Healthy," or "Diet." These will be lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and/or sodium than the regular versions.
When choosing prepared foods, choose vegetables, pasta and grain salads and side dishes made without high fat mayonnaise and oil. Steer clear from high saturated fat meats, dressing and other spreads, and dishes with creams and other sauces. Fruit salad is usually available and is always a great choice.
Even when you prepare food from scratch, you can choose to make it heart healthy.
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