Looking to improve your eating habits in the new year and lower your risk of heart disease? There’s good news: Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to be difficult.
If you made a resolution to eat healthier this coming year, you aren’t alone! That’s one of the most common resolutions. In fact, a 2020 study found that one in four Americans make resolutions—and of that number, 45 percent resolve to improve their diet.
The first step in improving what you eat is to rethink the word “diet.” Most of the time, we think of diets as a strict nutritional plan. Many fad diets that are difficult to stick to fall in this bucket.
But a heart-healthy diet isn’t a fad. Instead, it’s about changing your eating habits and fueling your body in a different way. Hitting the reset button and thinking of a diet in those terms can help you find success.
Most resolutions fall by the wayside by the time February rolls around. But this one doesn’t have to! Start small and incorporate some easy heart-healthy eating habits into your routine.
10 Easy Steps Toward a Heart-Healthy Diet
Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn’t have to feel like you’re changing everything about what you eat. Try these changes:
1. Visualize your plate with dividing lines.
Half should be filled with fruits and non-starchy veggies. The other half should be divided in half, with one part containing a lean protein and one containing a whole grain.
2. Put down the salt shaker.
This single change can make a huge difference for your blood pressure and overall heart health. Flavor your food with herbs and spices instead.
3. Choose healthy fats.
Limit your consumption of saturated fats. Instead, choose healthier options, like the fats found in olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon or tuna.
4. Watch for added sugar.
Not all sugar is evil. Most fruits and dairy products contain natural sugars. But you want to keep an eye out for added sugar, so carefully review nutrition labels to see how much is included. Limit your consumption to less than 25 grams per day of added sugar.
5. Cook at home when you can.
When you’re preparing foods at home, you know exactly what ingredients go into the recipe and can avoid additives. You also have more control over your portion sizes.
6. Amp up your fiber intake.
Besides keeping your GI system healthy and running at its best, fiber also helps lower your risk of heart health issues. Find fiber in whole grains, beans, and fruits and vegetables, particularly those with an edible peel.
7. Watch your condiments.
You don’t have to go flavor-free! But choose wisely when you’re adding a condiment. Try the low-fat or light version of products like mayo and choose oil-based salad dressings rather than creamy ones.
8. Look for hidden sodium.
Most Americans eat too much sodium. But it isn’t all coming from the salt shaker—most of it comes from processed foods. Take a look at the label on any foods you’re buying at the grocery store, including foods you wouldn’t consider salty, like bread. Choose lower sodium options.
9. Drink up.
But stick mainly with water! It’s important to stay well-hydrated, but many people drink a ton of calories in the form of sugary beverages. Water is the better option.
10. Indulge every once in a while.
Allowing yourself to eat a food you crave without feeling guilty can help you stick with a heart-healthy diet. Eat the foods you love on occasion, in moderation.
Want to learn more about how to keep your heart healthy and strong? Connect with our care team at the Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids at Georgia Heart Institute at 770-219-0960 to learn more about keeping your heart healthy and preventing heart disease.