Protect your heart and blood vessels by:

  • Eating less unhealthy fats (trans-fat, saturated fat and cholesterol) and by choosing the types of fats that help your cholesterol levels (unsaturated fats).
  • Maintaining a healthy weight by keeping portions in perspective and making healthy food choices.
  • Reducing the sodium intake, which can help control blood pressure.
  • The ingredients you use and the way you cook can make a big difference. Below are some practical tips to remember for heart-healthy eating and cooking.

Choose the Right Fats – In Moderation.

This means limiting foods high in trans-fat, saturated fat and cholesterol like:

  • Processed snacks and sweets
  • Baked sugary foods, fried foods
  • High-fat dairy products, solid fats, and high-fat meats.

Instead, choose lean protein foods and low-fat dairy products. Limit the amount of processed snacks and baked goods you buy and eat. Choose more nutritious fresh foods to include in your snacks and meals such as fresh vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fruit.

When cooking, skip the butter and margarine and try healthy vegetable-based oils in moderation.

Include Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of healthy fat that helps prevent the clogging of arteries. It is recommended to include non-fried fish in your meal plan at least twice a week – especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, albacore tuna, herring, rainbow trout, mackerel and sardines.

Other foods that provide Omega-3 fatty acids include soybean products, walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil. It's also great if you can include some of these sources in your diet. Try mixing walnuts into your morning oatmeal or adding tofu to your stir-fry.

Choose a Healthy Cooking Method

You can cut down on the calories in your meals by broiling, microwaving, baking, roasting, steaming or grilling foods. Avoid frying foods in lots of oil, lard or butter.

Preferably use little fat when cooking. Just make sure you use oil high in unsaturated fats in a small amount. (Remember that all fats are dense in calories, so they will add up quickly.) Some healthy oils are from olive, peanut, corn, vegetable, safflower, sunflower or flaxseed. Nonstick pans and cooking sprays also work well if you're trying to reduce calories in a dish.


Foods from the restaurant are high in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats – all things you want to watch if you're eating heart healthy. Try to cook at home as much as possible with fresh, healthy ingredients. You'll find that you have much more control over what goes into your food.

If you are looking for diabetes-friendly recipes to make at home, sign up for Recipes for Healthy Living. You'll receive with dozens of meal ideas, healthy tips and recipes each month.

Boost Flavor without Unhealthy Fats and Salt

Look for recipes that use herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt, butter, lard, or other unhealthy fats.

Try these tricks to season your food:

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice or lime juice on steamed vegetables, broiled fish, rice, salads or pasta.
  • Try salt-free lemon pepper or mesquite seasoning on chicken.
  • Try a salt-free herbs and spices. Fresh herbs are also a great choice.
  • Use onion and garlic to liven up meats and vegetables.
  • Try marinating and grilling chicken with barbecue sauce or with a homemade marinade.
  • Trim the fat when possible
  • Cut away visible fat from meat and poultry. Roast food on a rack to let the fat drip off.
  • Make soups a day ahead so you can chill them and then remove the fat that has risen to the top.

Substitute Healthier Ingredients in Your Favorite Recipes

Instead of regular ground beef try 90% lean ground beef or better yet, try lean ground turkey breast.

They have fewer calories, less saturated fat and less cholesterol.

Instead of sour cream on tacos or in dips try non-fat plain yogurt (regular or Greek). They have fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Instead of butter or margarine when cooking vegetables or protein foods try trans-free margarine and oils like olive oil or vegetable oil. They contain no trans-fat, less saturated fat and more heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

Instead of butter or margarine when baking try substituting half with applesauce. They have fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Instead of cream, whole milk or 2% milk try 1% milk or skim milk they have fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Instead of regular cheese try reduced-fat cheese or use less. They have fewer calories, less saturated fat and less cholesterol.

Instead of snack foods with hydrogenated oil, palm oil or coconut oil (crackers, chips, candy or baked goods) try fruit with plain yogurt, fresh vegetables and hummus, a slice of whole wheat toast and natural peanut butter, nuts and dried fruit. They contain less sodium, less saturated fat and zero trans-fat.

Instead of regular mayonnaise try light mayonnaise or mustard on sandwiches, non-fat plain yogurt or a combination of non-fat plain yogurt and light mayonnaise for dressings, sauces and dips. They contain fewer calories.

Instead of bologna, salami or pastrami try sliced low-sodium turkey or roast beef. Or better yet, cook fresh chicken or turkey on the weekend and use throughout the week for meals. They contain less total fat, less saturated fat and less sodium.

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