Learn about heart healthy eating

Are you eating your heart out? Eating whatever you want, when you want it? Eventually, depending upon your health history, your heart may suffer. However, simple changes like adding a little exercise and sticking to a heart healthy diet can help lower cholesterol (the biggest contributor to heart disease) and protect your heart. If you’re unsure which foods to eat and which ones to avoid, a registered dietitian nutritionist at St. Charles Health System in Central Oregon can help.

Shift your attitude

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a drag. The best heart protection is found in fruits and vegetables — and with so many varieties of each, there are hundreds of delicious ways to get more of these heart healthy foods into your diet. Because fruits and vegetables are high in fiber they help reduce three major heart risks: high cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess body weight. Here are some tips from the American Heart Association on how to create delicious, nutritious meals with these and other heart healthy foods:

  • Check the nutrition facts label on products to watch your calories, fat and sodium.
  • Limit calories from fat to less than 30 percent per day.
  • Use liquid oils and soft margarine sparingly.
  • Watch portion sizes. You only need about six ounces of protein each day.
  • Choose reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free foods.
  • Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or trans fat.
  • Cut back on high-cholesterol foods — eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.
  • Watch your salt — eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
  • Make vegetables, grains, beans, peas and fruit the center of your meals. They are naturally low in fat and calories, high in fiber and are filling. Think of meat as a side dish.
  • Buy whole grains. Whole grain foods have fiber to help lower your cholesterol and help you feel full with fewer calories.
  • Eat fish containing omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week. Salmon, trout and herring may help lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Look for words that mean food might be fatty: buttered, fried, pan fried, French fried, creamed, creamy, with gravy, au gratin, scalloped, rich and in pastry.

Make your new heart healthy diet a long-term commitment by adding or replacing one or two items at a time. Create one new recipe a week using the guidelines above. Small changes can be easier to stick with, and they still count toward heart disease prevention.

For more meal planning tips, the nutrition counselors at St. Charles can help

Making healthy food choices and sticking to a low-cholesterol diet can really make all the difference in your heart health. If you have questions or concerns about what foods to eat, we encourage you to call us today at 541-706-3752.

The registered dietitian nutritionists at St. Charles Health System in Central Oregon offer counseling about preparing heart healthy meals and snacks that can assist in heart disease prevention.