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Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

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Most people agree there's nothing like a home-cooked meal. Preparing food at home can be fun, relaxing, economical, and most important, healthier than restaurant meals. When you cook in your own kitchen, you have greater control over how the food is prepared, as well as over the fat content, total calories and nutrition level.

Here are some examples of ways to eat healthy:
  • Gather recipes and cookbooks that focus on keeping your heart in good health
  • Choose "choice" or "select" cuts of beef and remove excess fat
  • Choose leaner, light meat like chicken breasts; avoid dark meat such as legs and thighs, which have more fat; and always remove the skin before cooking
  • For egg dishes, substitute two egg whites for each egg yolk
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Choose reduced-fat, low-fat, light or no-fat salad dressings
  • Reduce your salt intake

Heart-healthy foods.

Experts in health and nutrition have developed a list of the top foods for maintaining a healthy heart. So when planning your meals, look to use these recommended foods frequently. They are offered here by WebMD with menu ideas on how to enjoy them.

Salmon Grill salmon, prepare with a low-fat rub or marinade.

Flaxseed (ground) Baked goods, yogurt and cereal are a few of the many foods that mask the flavor of ground flaxseed.

Oatmeal Try adding fresh berries to your oatmeal.

Black or kidney beans Mix beans in with soups and salads.

Red wine To increase your "good" HDL cholesterol, experts have suggested having a glass of red wine.

Tuna Make a salad of greens, fresh fruit, and canned tuna topped with a dash of low-fat dressing.

Tofu Grill or stir-fry tofu slices that have been marinated for several hours.

Brown rice Combine cooked brown rice with chopped vegetables for a quick and healthful lunch.

Soy milk Pour soy milk over oatmeal or whole-grain cereal.

Spinach Replace lettuce with spinach in salads and sandwiches.

Sweet potato Replace a baked potato with a sweet potato for a dash of color and nutrition.

Red bell peppers Add flavorful red peppers to wraps, salads and sandwiches.

Asparagus Add olive oil and lemon to grilled or steamed asparagus.

Tomatoes Add fresh sliced tomatoes to sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes.

Acorn squash Serve baked squash topped with pine nuts and raisins.

Tea Enjoy a soothing cup of tea instead of coffee in the morning.

Food substitutions for healthier eating.

The food substitution chart below provides suggestions from the American Heart Association. It provides some handy ingredient substitutions that can replace ingredients that are high in fat and calories.

When a
recipe calls for
Try this healthier substitute
Whole milk (1 cup) 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk plus 1 tablespoon liquid vegetable oil
Heavy cream (1 cup) 1 cup evaporated skim milk or 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup plain, low-fat, unsalted cottage cheese
Cream cheese 4 tablespoons soft margarine blended with 1 cup dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese; add a small amount of fat-free milk, if needed
Egg 2 egg whites, or choose a commercially made, cholesterol-free egg substitute (1/4 cup)
Butter (1 tablespoon) 1 tablespoon soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat) or 3/4 tablespoon liquid vegetable oil
Sour cream Low-fat, unsalted cottage cheese plus low-fat or fat-free yogurt; or just use fat-free sour cream, which is also available
Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce) 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or soft margarine. Since carob is sweeter than cocoa, reduce the sugar in the recipe by 25%

Healthy snacking.

There’s nothing wrong with snacking. In fact, it can even help stop you from overdoing it at mealtimes. But it’s really important WHAT you decide to snack on. When it comes to good health, you can do better than a bag of chips.

The good news is that heart-healthy options can be just as tasty and even more nutritious and filling. It may be a challenge to make the switch, but once you do, you’ll feel better, look better and be healthier.

Here’s a list of some healthy snacks that come right from nature, with suggestions of how to enjoy them.

Almonds They have protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also high in calories, so a small handful will do. A few almonds add a nice flavor and crunch to low-fat yogurt, trail mix or fruit salads.

Walnuts They’re especially high in ALA, an organic compound the body converts into omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 is the same heart-healthy fat found in oily fish. Try adding walnuts to salads, pastas, and pancakes.

Did you know that eating fruits and vegetables may help prevent heart disease, cancer and other illnesses? The best way to get these possible benefits, and all the vitamins and nutrients fruits and vegetables have to offer, is to eat across the color spectrum.

Blueberries From the blue group, blueberries are great in cereals and yogurt. Also in the blue group are blackberries, purple grapes, plums, prunes and eggplant.

Carrots From the orange group, shredded carrots can be added to spaghetti sauce or muffin batter, and it’s surprisingly delicious. Also in the orange group are pumpkin, butternut squash, apricots and tangerines.

Broccoli From the green group, raw or steamed broccoli can be dipped in hummus (ground chickpeas) for a healthy and tasty snack. Also in the green group are spinach, kale, kiwi and green grapes.

Tomatoes From the red group, tomatoes are great in salads, pastas, sandwiches, or sliced with a little olive oil. Also in the red group are watermelon, strawberries, cherries and red apples.

Cantaloupe From the orange group, fresh-sliced cantaloupe is great for breakfast or as a snack any time of the day.

Oranges From the orange group, a glass of OJ can be refreshing and nutrient rich—and it’s so much better for you than soda or diet soda.