Most of us are aware that our diets can impact the risk for heart disease and that changing the way we eat is easier said than done. Whether you want to eat healthier or you have years of poor eating habits, here are eighty heart-healthy nutrition tips.

  1. Control your portion size: The amount you eat is just as important as what you eat. Everything these days is supersized, extra-large, double this and double that! Going to a buffet and filling your plate and then eating until you are stuffed leads to having too high a calorie intake.

  • Use a smaller bowl or plate
  • Eat lower-calorie, lower-sodium foods, such as vegetables and fruits.
  • Eat foods high in nutrients and low in fat and sodium.
  • Limit your fast food intake.
  • Limit your processed foods and refined foods.
  • Keep track of going back for seconds.
  • Use measuring cups or a scale for your portions until you have learned the right serving size.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables: Fruits and veggies are a great source of vitamins and minerals. They are low in fats and calories and contain substances that can help prevent heart disease. Increasing the number of fruits and vegetables can help you decrease the number of calories with cheeses, meats, dairy, and snack foods.

  • Make sure to wash your fruits and veggies.
  • Please keep them in view to remind you to eat them.
  • Find recipes that feature vegetables and fruits as the main ingredients, such as stir-fry or fresh fruit salads.
  • Limit high-calorie fruits and vegetables such as coconut, vegetables in a cream sauce, breaded or fried vegetables, and fruits in heavy syrup.
3. Eat whole grains: Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrients and fiber that play an essential role in regulating blood pressure and maintaining good cardiovascular health. Try new whole grains such as farro, barley, or quinoa, if you haven’t already. Avoid donuts, cakes, pasta, and other simple carbohydrates.
4. Know your fats: Limiting trans fats and saturated fats is an important step in reducing your cholesterol and lowering your chances of heart disease. Choose monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and polyunsaturated fats found in fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Note**All fats are high in calories. High cholesterol leads to plaque buildup in your arteries (atherosclerosis), increasing your stroke and heart attack risk.

Click here for the American Heart Association guidelines on how much fat to include in a heart-healthy diet:

All types of fat are high in calories. When using fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds, are suitable for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your total blood cholesterol. But moderation is essential.

5. Choose proteins that are low in fat: Chicken and fish! Eggs and low-fat milk are good too. Fish is rich in omega 3s, and so are walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans, and canola oil. Beans are also a good source of protein, and they are low in cholesterol and fat. Veggie burgers work!

6. Lower your salt intake. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. Believe it or not, you should only have around a teaspoon of salt per day, and most foods already contain sodium. It is hard at first if you are used to salting your food. Cut down gradually, and before long, you won’t even miss it. Eating fresh foods lowers your salt intake. You can substitute spices and herbs for salt.
7. Design your daily menus. Get creative in creating your heart-smart meal plan. Use the steps above when designing your menus to make sure to get the good nutrition your body needs. Write down the foods that are working on limiting and give yourself a gold star when you follow through.
8. Variety is the Spice of Life: adding a variety of healthy foods can make your heart-healthy diet a new way of life rather than a temporary fix.
Don’t deny yourself the occasional treat. If you find that having a couple of cookies derails your new lifestyle, reconsider having fruit instead. But, if you find that you can have a cup of potato chips every once in a while, it won’t hurt your heart-smart way of living.

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