Choosing a Healthy Diet for a Healthy Heart

This month, get started on your way to a healthy heart with a heart-healthy diet. Think of your diet as a bank account. Every day you make a deposit with the foods you eat. With smarter choices, you can achieve the healthiest investments without overindulging.

Determine Your Daily Caloric Intake

Most people do not realize how many calories they take in every day. Midday snacks and sodas can be filled with empty calories that add up quickly. When you monitor what you are eating, you’ll notice where those extra calories are sneaking in. Visit the American Heart Association®  My Fats Translator to get recommendations for daily total fat and caloric intake and to find smart food swaps.

Smart Food Swaps

American Heart Association's Added Sugar Is Not So Sweet Infographic

Learn More About Smart Swaps

Smart swaps are easy ways to eat healthier when you’re on the road or cooking at home.

  • Instead of foods high in saturated and trans fats try nonfat dairy products and non-hydrogenated margarine. Check the Nutrition Facts label and choose one with zero trans fat, no more than 2 grams of saturated fats per tablespoon, and liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient.
  • Instead of whole eggs, opt for egg whites or liquid egg substitutes.
  • Instead of canned fruits packed in syrup, pick those packed in fruit juice.
  • Instead of butter or shortening, use vegetable oil or soft margarine instead or opt for nonstick cooking sprays.
  • Instead of high-fat, high-calorie marinades and dips, reach for reduced-fat, low-fat, lite or no-fat marinades and salad dressings. Low-fat yogurt also makes for a great dip alternative.
  • Instead of high-fat cookies like chocolate chip or macaroons, select graham crackers, rice cakes, fig or fruit bars, or ginger snaps.
  • Instead of prime grades of beef, look for those labeled “choice” or “select.” Remember to trim the fatty edges off prior to cooking.
  • Instead of dark meat poultry options like legs and thighs, choose leaner, light meat alternatives like breasts with the skin removed.

Dining Out

When dining out, look for the American Heart Association emblem. The association has worked with grocery store and restaurant chains across the country. Look for the Heart-Check mark on menus and designated heart-healthy foods in grocery stores. These foods have been certified to meet American Heart Association® nutritional standards.

Ordering a Meal

When you decide to dine out, you can still make healthy choices. First, try to avoid all-you-can-eat buffets. Buffets often lead to overeating. Second, if at all possible, decide on your order before going to a restaurant. Here are some suggestions to help make better choices:

  • Avoid cocktails, appetizers, bread, and butter.
  • Avoid items described with words like pickled, in cocktail sauce, smoked, in broth, or au jus.
  • Avoid meals with extra cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise.
  • Ask for baked, broiled, grilled, poached, or roasted foods.
  • Pick a healthy alternative like fresh fruit, fruit ice, sherbet, gelatin, or angel food cake for dessert.
  • Use fat-free or 1% milk in coffee.
  • Ask for a smaller portion like a lunch or senior’s serving.
  • Place half of your entrée in a to-go box and save for another meal.
  • Ask for healthy substitutions, for example, ask to replace fries with a baked potato.

More Information

Visit the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Center for more tips on how you can eat healthy for a healthy heart.


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