How To Eat A Heart Healthy Diet

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You’re at the supermarket. There are so many choices. Your doctor told you to make healthier food choices. What does that mean, exactly? You want to eat healthy, but you are not sure where to start. You feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry, this post will help!

Remember, not everything that is advertised or labeled as healthy is really good for you! To help narrow down your options, here are some tips:

Whole Grains, Breads, Cereal, Rice and Pasta 

  • Choose whole-grain, high-fiber grains, such as whole wheat, oats, oatmeal, whole rye, whole grain corn and brown rice.
  • Choose whole grain instead of white. Your old favorites are available in whole grain: bread, English muffins, bagels, buns, corn or flour tortillas instead of white flour and bread, frozen waffles, corn bread, quick breads, granola bars, cakes, pies or egg noodles.
  • Choose whole grains cereals instead of instant hot cereals
  • Choose unsalted low fat crackers, graham crackers or melba toast instead of baked pastries, muffins, biscuits and high-fat snack crackers.


  • Choose fresh, frozen, grilled, steamed, or raw vegetables.
  • Drained and rinsed canned vegetables are also OK (but not the best).
  • Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and cauliflower make good snacks.
  • Avoid vegetables that are fried, pickled, breaded or prepared with butter, cheese, or cream sauce.


  • Select all frozen, fresh and dried fruits instead of fruits canned in heavy syrups and/or with added sugar.
  • Fresh is always best. These do not have added fats, sugars or sodium.
  • Dried fruit – like apricots, dates, dried plums, raisins, and cranberries – and gelatin that contains fruit are good substitutes for baked goods and sweets.
  • Avoid coconut.


  • Select fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk, nonfat or low fat yogurt or yogurt beverages, low fat or non fat cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream.
  • Choose soft margarines that contain “0 grams trans fat”
  • Choose egg whites or cholesterol-free egg substitute instead of egg yolks or pickled eggs
  • Avoid these dairy products: whole milk; evaporated or condensed milk; milk that contains added flavorings such as vanilla, chocolate or strawberry; butter; cream cheese; half and half; and whipping cream.

Meats and Other Proteins

  • When choosing chicken or other poultry, look for breast or white meat without the skin.
  • Choose lean cuts of beef, pork, and lamb instead of fatty cuts, spare ribs, or organ meats.
  • When choosing beef and veal, pick extra lean cuts without much white marbling (fat). Healthy types include tenderloin, round, flank cut.
  • Prepare more fish. Good examples of fish to buy include salmon, trout and herring.
  • Select more meat substitutes such as dried beans, peas, lentils, tempeh or low-fat tofu.
  • Avoid fried or cream sauce prepared chicken, fish, and shellfish.

Desserts and Sweets

  • Choose non-fat or low-fat frozen yogurt, sherbet or fruit ice instead of ice cream.
  • Choose fat free cookies or cake prepared with egg whites, egg substitutes, low-fat milk and unsaturated oil.
  • Avoid desserts made with chocolate, whole milk, egg yolks, lard, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, or cream.

Oils, Dressings and Shortenings

  • Buy and use fats and oils in limited amounts.
  • When you must use oils for cooking or baking, choose the ones lowest in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. This includes: canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil.
  • Buy a nonstick pan or use nonstick vegetable spray when cooking.
  • Choose reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free salad dressings in salads, dips or marinades.
  • Avoid palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, butter, lard, bacon fat, gravy, hydrogenated margarine and shortening.


  • Use herbs and spices to flavor foods instead of salt. Lowering your salt intake can lower your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Dash is a very flavorful salt substitute.
  • Avoid frozen dinners, cold cuts, canned and dry soups, canned vegetable juices, white breads and snacks like chips and salted nuts.
  • Look at the label for sodium. If one serving contains several hundred milligrams of sodium, that’s too much.

What other heart-healthy tips do you follow? Do you have any advice for others trying to make the transition to a healthier diet? Where do you find good heart-healthy recipes? Share them below!

 – Dr. Jayashree Sanghavi, MD, RD, LDN


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