Tips for a heart-healthy diet

By Amy Bellanger, RD, CSP, LD
Clinical Dietitian
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Happy American Heart Month! Here are a few simple but powerful changes you can start making today for a healthier heart.

Increase intake of fruits and vegetables
Most adults need two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables daily. Work on making half your plate fruits and vegetables. There are always opportunities to add more vegetables to your favorite dishes. Consider adding sauteed bell peppers, mushrooms, onions to your eggs, or tomatoes and thinly sliced squash to your pasta dishes.

Limit saturated fat
Choose lean meats like loin and rounds, and avoid processed meats such as salami, bacon, chorizo, and pepperoni. Select plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, or legumes instead of animal protein. Choose low-fat cooking methods like grilling, broiling, baking, searing. Avoid deep-fried and processed foods such as chips, french fries, and funnel cakes.

Choose healthier fats
Eat fish two times per week. Select foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts, and chia seeds. Other good sources of healthy fats are nuts, olive oil, canola oil, avocado, and ground flax seed.

Reduce sodium (salt) intake
Salt is salt, avoid added salt, and processed foods. Limit eating out and cook at home more often. Use onions, garlic, fresh lemon, pepper, jalapeño, herbs, and spices to add flavor to foods without using salt. Be aware of hidden salt by reading food labels. Most foods you eat should have less than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Increase fiber intake
It is recommended that adults eat 25-30 grams of fiber daily, however the average American eats around 15 grams per day. A simple change would be to exchange processed or refined grains such as white bread for whole grains such as wheat bread or quinoa, and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Obtain a healthy weight
If you are overweight or obese work toward reducing your weight slowly and steadily. Healthy diet changes and reasonable physical activity can result in your ability to maintain your ideal weight in the long term. It’s a lifestyle change not a diet; these are long-term changes.

If you or your child need help finding a doctor to help with a weight loss program, visit www.chofsa.org/findadoc.

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