Editor’s note: This post is the first in a series with information to help you eat well for a healthy heart. Remaining posts in the series feature suggestions and recipes for each meal.
Heart-healthy meals aren’t just for people with heart problems.
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S and the world,” said Hannah Koschak, a Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian. “With those odds, eating well to prevent heart disease and other chronic conditions is in everyone’s best interest.”
Create a balanced plate
Koschak recommends eating a variety of whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. Include at least three food groups in each meal. Use Marshfield Clinic’s serving size guide to properly measure your portions.
“Half your plate at lunch and dinner should be non-starchy veggies,” Koschak said. “Veggies are emphasized at lunch and dinner because most people don’t get any with breakfast.”
Fill a quarter of your plate with heart-healthy grains like whole grain bread or pasta, brown rice or quinoa. Include starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn in this section.
Fill the final quarter of your plate with protein like skinless chicken, fish, eggs, tofu or beans.
Add a serving of fresh fruit or fruit canned in 100 percent juice for dessert.
Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar
Eating too much saturated fat, trans fat and sodium has been linked to heart problems. Eat foods with large amounts of these substances in moderation.
Red or processed meat and full-fat dairy are the main culprits for saturated fat. Koschak recommends low-fat dairy, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna twice a week.
Trans fat lurks in baked goods, chips and deep-fried foods. Limit your intake to 1-2 g daily or better yet, completely avoid trans fat, which is listed as partially hydrogenated oil on nutrition labels.
Limit daily sodium to 2,300 mg daily or 1,500 mg if you have a history of heart problems. Avoid foods with more than 20 percent daily value of sodium per serving on the nutrition label. Aim for less than 600 mg of sodium per meal and 140 mg per serving for a snack to help stay within recommendations.
“Too much sugar in your diet could significantly increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.”
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 g added sugar per day for women (one flavored yogurt) and 36 g added sugar per day for men (less than one soda).
Meal plan for success
“People make better food choices when they plan ahead,” Koschak said.
Select recipes for the week and shop with a grocery list. Visit these websites for healthful meal ideas:
Marshfield Clinic’s heart-healthy meals series features breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas with a new recipe for each meal. Subscribe to our email list so you don’t miss similar wellness series.