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Nutritional Tips For A Healthier Heart

By DuPage Medical Group Cardiology

Having a healthy diet is key to fighting cardiovascular disease. When it comes to nutrition, there are some simple and easy steps to take to make heart healthy changes in your diet:

Don’t eat more calories than you can burn every day. 

  • Many gyms and YMCA’s offer resting metabolic rate testing that can assist you in determining the proper caloric intake for your size, age and gender. The American Heart Association website (www.heart.org) also offers a simple calculation for determining caloric needs.

Don’t exclude any food groups from your diet. 

  • This will put you at risk for deficiencies in crucial vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eat fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish and nuts. Minimize consumption of red meat, dairy, and sugary foods/beverages.

Focus on eating nutrient dense foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. 

  • These types of foods make you feel fuller and you will have consumed fewer calories. Nutrition labels are also a good tool to use when making food choices.

Healthy eating, like so many other things in life, starts at home. As a family, research recipes together and enjoy meals that include a lot of fresh whole foods. Look for healthier substitutes for recipe ingredients such as low-fat cottage cheese or plain yogurt for sour cream and fat-free or low-fat milk for whole milk. Use olive, sesame, and coconut oil instead of butter when cooking or making spreads and dressings. Make cooking fun and adventurous!

Eating out is an enjoyable, and sometimes necessary, part of life. You can make these times heart healthy by following a few guidelines:

  1. Avoid menu items that are fried, au gratin, crispy, sautéed, creamed, or buttered, and instead opt for those that are steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, or roasted. If you are not sure how a dish is prepared, ask your server.
  2. Choose entrees that feature seafood, chicken and lean meat.
  3. Avoid fatty appetizers and instead choose a salad with the dressing on the side.
  4. Ask your server to bring condiments, sauces and gravies on the side.
  5. Request healthy substitutions for your side dishes: veggies for onion rings, baked potato for fries, and salad for coleslaw.
  6. You don’t have to skip dessert, just choose wisely. Fresh fruit, sherbet or angel food cake are all great substitutions for more traditional desserts that can be rich in fat and cream.

Snacking can be an important and essential part of your diet to help meet all your nutritional needs. Be creative with fresh fruits and vegetables. Freezing bananas and grapes make them taste like candy! Snack on unsalted rice cakes, almonds, walnuts and raisins. Satisfy your cravings with something that is creamy, like low-fat or fat-free yogurt. (Get an added benefit of more protein when you choose Greek yogurt.) Water should always be your number one choice for satisfying your thirst, but unsweetened juices, coffee and tea are also healthy options.

Remember, just as with exercise, making small healthy changes to your diet can really add up. Add new foods and diet choices frequently and you will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle and a stronger fight against cardiovascular disease!

Topics and Subtopics: Diet & Nutrition & Heart Health

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