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  » Diet Information  »  Heart healthy diet

Are you concerned about your heart? Maybe you have a family history of heart disease, or perhaps you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or high triglyceride levels. The foods you choose to eat on a regular basis strongly influence the health of your heart and blood vessels. The Get Heart Healthy Diet will help you use healthy menu ideas to transform your current way of eating into a plan that your heart will love.

• Your fat intake should be no more than 25 to 35 percent of your total calories. Fat is high in calories, which can contribute to excess body weight -- the more body fat you have, the harder your heart has to work. This diet includes a balanced amount of fat to keep your heart healthy. (If you have or are at risk for heart disease, you may need to cut your fat intake to 20 percent. Consult your physician for guidance.)
• Your saturated fat intake should be no more than seven percent of total calories. Saturated fat is found primarily in animal fats (the skin on poultry, the fat on red meat and foods high in fat, like lunch meats and sausage), dairy products with fat (cheese and milk) and fats that are solid at room temperature such as butter, solid shortening and lard. Saturated fat intake is the greatest contributor to body levels of cholesterol -- the more saturated fat we eat, the higher our cholesterol levels. This meal plan will help you keep saturated fat to a minimum in your diet.
#8226; Soy foods contain beneficial protein -- 25 grams of soy protein per day may help reduce risk of heart disease. Substitute soy milk for skim milk, choose tofu or tempeh daily, snack on soy nuts or enjoy a smoothie made with soy milk and fruit. This diet includes options to help you incorporate soy into your current diet.
• Trans fatty acids are formed when foods are fried (think of french fries and chicken nuggets) or when liquid fats are made into solid fats (like corn oil made into margarine). Snack crackers, cookies and pastries may also contain trans fatty acids. This food plan helps you avoid trans fatty acids by offering meal choices so tasty that you won't miss the extra fat.
• You should eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Don't let that number frighten you; it's as simple as fruit with every meal, two vegetable servings with lunch and dinner, and two glasses of fruit or vegetable juice. This diet makes it easy to eat enough fruits and veggies without thinking twice.

BREAKFAST

Option One Option Two Option Three
1 cup oatmeal (made with skim milk) topped with 1/2 cup blueberries Flaxseed Muffins
1 cup mixed fruit salad
1 cup skim milk
1 cup Cheerios
Skim milk
1 banana

LUNCH

Option One Option Two Option Three
1 cup water-packed tuna mixed with 1/2 cup chopped vegetables (try celery, jicama, green and red pepper, radishes, carrots) and 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise on a bed of dark green lettuce
1 cup grapes
Soy Tomato Soup
1 cup carrot, green pepper and celery sticks
1/2 grapefruit
2 cups black bean soup
Jicama Mango Coleslaw
1 peach

DINNER

Option One Option Two Option Three
Grilled Salmon with Fruit Salsa
1/2 cup acorn squash (top with a dash of cinnamon and brown sugar)
1 cup steamed asparagus topped with minced garlic sauteed in olive oil
1/2 cup fresh fruit salad
Spaghetti and meatballs (substitute textured vegetable protein for half of the ground beef to add soy protein to this meal)
2 cups tossed salad with a vinaigrette dressing made from olive oil
1/2 cup pineapple
Bean tortilla (use a whole wheat soft tortilla instead of a crisp shell to cut down on fat and spread with vegetarian refried beans to reduce saturated fat) topped with low-fat sour cream, part-skim mozzarella and salsa
1/2 cup raw broccoli with a low-fat salad dressing for "dip"
1 pear

SNACKS
Bring your own snacks with you to avoid resorting to vending machines or convenience stores. Remember to choose vegetables and fruit for snacks to count your way to nine total servings per day!

• Smoothie made with soy milk, yogurt and fresh fruit (try banana and strawberry, pineapple and banana, or blueberry and peaches)
• Baked apple topped with fat-free vanilla yogurt
• 1/4 cup soy nuts
• High fiber cereal (look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving) with skim milk
• 1 small handful walnuts (yes, they are high in fat, but this type of fat helps protect our heart)
• Variety of cut-up fresh vegetables with a fat-free salad dressing for "dip"
• Variety of cut-up fresh fruit with fat-free vanilla yogurt for "dip"
• Sherbet or sorbet topped with fresh fruit
• Water-packed tuna on crackers (note -- this can be a higher sodium snack)
• Freeze grapes or bananas for a refreshing icy cold treat
• Air-popped popcorn
• Frozen fruit juice Popsicle
• Salsa with veggies
• Small handful dried fruit


HEALTHY DOS AND DON'TS

Do:

• Choose seafood twice each week for healthy types of essential fatty acids
• Sprinkle ground flaxseed on cereal or in smoothies, choose breakfast cereal that contains flaxseed, or use ground flaxseed in muffins or pancakes. Flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect our heart health
• Double the number of your vegetarian meals each week. If you currently eat one meatless meal per week, add another. If you eat two meatless meals per week (and it can be as simple as peanut butter on a whole-wheat sandwich for lunch or spaghetti with tomato sauce for dinner), increase it to four. Meatless meals contain less saturated fat and more fiber -- a double bonus
• Use legumes (dried beans and peas such as kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils, etc.) as often as possible as low-fat protein for heart-healthy soluble fiber

Don't:

• Use the salt-shaker! Use saltless herb seasoning mixes instead
• Eat frozen dinners, frozen vegetables with sauces (make your own sauce!), fast food, canned vegetables and soups (unless you search out lower sodium brands) or anything with visible salt, like pretzels. Avoiding these foods will help keep your salt intake low