Eating Smart for a Healthy Heart

Many heart disease patients are confused and uncertain about their dietary requirements. In truth, heart healthy eating does not have to be complicated. In fact, meal plans for heart patients can be easy and quick to make, and they don’t have to be bland and boring. In most cases, a few simple adjustments in your pantry and smart cooking techniques can make all the difference.

Dietary Recommendations
For Heart Disease Patients

For detailed guidelines to heart healthy eating, go to Eating Lighter – Eating Smarter, a program that offers easy to follow meal plans for heart patients and everyone interested in a heart healthy diet.

Recipes for everyday heart healthy eating
Choosing quality ingredients and applying the right cooking techniques are a must for health-conscious meal preparation. Start by reducing or eliminating “empty” calories and unnecessary fat content from your meals. The trick is to accomplish this without taking away from the tastes and textures you love. If your diet bores you and leaves your taste buds out in the cold, you will not stick to it, no matter how beneficial it may be to your health.

It is a good idea not to depart right away from the eating habits you are accustomed to. Instead of introducing unfamiliar food items, try to modify the ones you always eat. Start with your favorites. If you never liked seafood all that much, don’t force yourself to eat fish, because it’s better for you. If you are more the “meat-and-potato” type, don’t give up eating what you like best. Instead, you can pick leaner meat cuts and learn lighter cooking methods. If necessary, cut back on your portion sizes. Make healthy ingredients, like vegetables and salads, your largest servings.

There are plenty of options you can explore to make your favorite meals more healthful and keep them tasty as well. For detailed guidelines to healthy meal modifications, go to Modified Recipes.

Eating out
Even the most radical “health nut” must be able to go out and have some fun. Dining out should be a pleasurable experience, unspoiled by guilt and regret. True, in most restaurants you have not much control over the chef’s cooking style – although you may ask for certain modifications, like lighter salad dressing or the omission of some ingredients. For this reason, you may want to patronize places where your wishes are readily accommodated.

It is also helpful to learn a little bit about the “restaurant lingo” commonly used in menus. Even the most detailed meal descriptions make no sense if you don’t know what they refer to.

Before you go to the restaurant of your choice, have a plan ready – a “dining out strategy,” if you will. Being prepared can help you maintain your willpower, and you won’t so easily give in to temptations. Part of that strategy is not to arrive too hungry.

For more tips to eating out, go to Dining Without Reservations.

Diet plans designed for heart health
The word “diet” is mostly associated with weight loss. While weight control is an important part of most dietary programs, there are also plans with primary focus on heart health. Two of these got a great deal of attention in recent times: One is called “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” better known by its acronym “DASH” diet; the other is named the “Mediterranean Diet.”

The “DASH” diet
“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” or DASH diet, is the brainchild of the National Institute of Health (NIH), a United States government health organization. The DASH diet is based on the NIH’s guidelines for the dietary treatment of hypertension and heart disease.

The DASH diet compiles meal plans that are dominated by fresh produce and other plant-based food products. The benefits of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium and magnesium are also emphasized. Animal protein is included in this diet but should be limited to reduce cholesterol. Non-fat or low-fat dairy products are recommended if consumed in moderation. Warnings are given about excessive intake of fat, sodium (salt) and sugar.

The Mediterranean diet
Despite of its name, this diet does not represent all (or even most) of the culinary cultures that developed over hundreds of years around the Mediterranean Sea. The most commonly known and practiced version in America was introduced by a Harvard professor in the mid-1990s. Its dietary principles are based on food patterns traditionally found in Greece and the southern parts of Italy.

The Mediterranean diet places great importance on fresh, natural ingredients and lean cooking methods. Vegetarian dishes dominate. Animal protein comes from fish and (to a lesser extent) poultry. Lean meats, i.e. lamb, are included but reserved for special occasions. Dairy products, especially cheese, are common staples. Olive oil is the principal source of fat and is used for cooking, salad dressing and as a dip.

Even wine is considered an important component of the Mediterranean diet. While the health effects of wine have been debated for years, there are strong indications that moderate consumption of red wine can be helpful in promoting heart health.

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