What you eat and how much you eat really does matter when it comes to the heart. Fortunately, healthy eating habits can be learned and along with regular exercise, can become part of your healthy lifestyle. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect everyday but make a good effort to improve the overall pattern of your food choices.
The friendly specialists at Heartland Cardiology are happy to refer you to a nutritionist who can help you learn to read food labels, select foods, and create a heart healthy meal plan. A nutritionist can easily create a plan for those wanting to control weight, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Calories: Know how many you consume & how many you use
The ideal amount of calories consumed by everyone is different. Ask your doctor how many calories you should have each day. Check food labels and keep track of the amount of calories that you eat each day. It can be helpful to keep track with a written or computerized log.
Each day, use up the calories that you consume. You “burn” calories with exercise and regular activities of daily living. People with sedentary lifestyles may need to exercise more. It is a good goal to exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes each weekday, or better yet, every day. You don’t need to perform 30 minutes of exercise all at once. For example, you could exercise for 10 minutes three times daily.
Select a variety of nutritious foods for a well-balanced diet
Be smart when choosing the foods you eat. In addition to considering calories, select foods that are packed with nutrients. Your body needs vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, fat-free low-fat dairy products, and fish are important components of a heart healthy diet.
Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients and loaded with fiber. They are naturally low in calories. Make sure to eat a variety each day. Eating vegetables and fruits can help you lose weight and control your blood pressure.
Fat-free, low-fat, low-cholesterol dairy products
Eggs, whole milk, butter are high in cholesterol and fat. You can still eat these foods, but choose versions that are the healthiest, such as fat-free, 1% fat, or low-fat milk and cheese. Look for low or no cholesterol margarine or spreads. Try egg substitutes or remove the yolks from eggs before eating.
Oils and Fats
Read labels carefully for fats. Select unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, or polyunsaturated fats, such as corn oil. Avoid saturated or trans fats. By choosing unsaturated fats, you can help reduce your weight and cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats can actually help raise levels of HDL, the healthy cholesterol.
Unrefined whole-grain foods
Unrefined whole-grain foods can help lower cholesterol and make you feel full. Look for whole-grain high-fiber labels on breakfast cereals and breads. Oatmeal is always a good choice.
Eating oily fish at least twice a week. Oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that may help reduce your risk of death from coronary artery heart disease. Examples of oily fish are salmon, trout, and herring.
Meat and Poultry
Select lean red meat and prepare poultry without the skin attached. Cook meats without added saturated or trans fat. Watch your portion size. A healthy portion is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
Reduce the amount of sugar you consume to help control your weight and blood sugar levels. Cut back on soda pop, candy, desserts, and bakery items. Look for Low-Carb or No Sugar labels on breads, ice cream, jams, syrups, candy, and other sweets.
It is very important to watch your salt intake. You should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day. Too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure. Look for “low-sodium” or “no added salt” labels on food products. Try salt substitutes or adding flavor to recipes with herbs.
Many restaurants and even fast food places feature heart healthy menu items. If menu items are not marked as heart healthy, than ask the staff how the food is prepared and make requests accordingly. You may even call ahead to learn the healthiest places to eat at in your area.