How many of you have been to the doctor or discharged from the hospital with the recommendation to follow a heart healthy diet? You are not alone! Heart disease affects millions of people in the United States alone, and is the leading cause of death in seniors.
It can be overwhelming to be told that you need to change your diet. We don't like to be told we need to change, and it is difficult to adjust the way we have done things for years. Most of us enjoy food, and many of our social activities involve food. As humans, we will never be perfect, but we can strive to find balance with healthy living and enjoying our food!
So, what is a heart-healthy diet? Let your food energize you! The focus should be on eating a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. You may ask how many servings of each of these you need, and how to ensure that you are staying within the guidelines of heart-healthy diet recommendations.
Let's break it down:
- 5 servings daily
- Serving size: ½ cup
Eat your vegetables without added salt. Replace high calorie foods with vegetables.
- 4 servings daily
- Serving size: one small piece of fruit
Eat your fruits without added sugar. Also try to replace high calorie foods with fruits.
- 3-6 servings daily
- Serving size: ½ cup of rice or pasta, or one slice of bread.
Choose whole grains that are rich in fiber.
- 3 servings daily
- Serving size: 2 oz of cheese (the size of domino), or 1 cup of milk or yogurt.
Choose fat free (skim) and low fat (1%) daily products.
- 1-2 servings daily
- Serving size: a piece of meat about the size of a deck of cards
Choose lean meats, poultry, and fish without the skin and cook them without added saturated and trans fats. It is recommended to eat fish at least twice a week, but if you do choose red meat, try to select the leanest cut available.
- 3 tablespoons daily
Choose cooking oils that are made from plants or seeds. These oils tend to be liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, canola oil, and avocado oil. Avoid saturated fats, such as butter, hydrogenated vegetable oil, lard, and trans fats that are associated with deep fried foods, hamburgers, and pizza.
- Limit sugary drinks, sweets, fatty meats, and salty/highly processed foods
- When eating out, watch portion sizes. Choose lean meats and avoid fried foods. Consider sharing a meal or taking home leftovers for later.
- Only consume alcohol in moderation - 1 beverage daily for women, and 2 beverages daily for men.
Along with following these diet recommendations, consider maintaining an active lifestyle. Find ways to add activity to your daily life. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly for seniors. That's only about 20-25 minutes a day. Combining a well-rounded diet and exercise will keep your heart healthy - it's essential!
Written By: Care Manager - Anna Lynch, RN
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