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Eating healthy foods helps lower cholesterol levels and reduce plaque buildup in arteries. It can also help you lose weight and keep high blood pressure under control. Eating better doesn’t necessarily mean going on a special diet, unless you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Instead, the idea is to eat more vegetables and fruits while limiting fat and salt.
Beef and other red meats
Processed lunch meats
Fish, skinless chicken, or tofu
Chicken or turkey breast slices
Chips and other salty snacks
Donuts and croissants
Water or diet soda
Nuts, seeds, air-popped popcorn
Fresh fruit, whole-grain raisin bread
Regular pasta or noodles
Whole-grain pasta or noodles
Regular cheese and mayonnaise
1% or skim milk
Low-fat cheese and mayonnaise
Olive or canola oil
The key to good eating is having a variety of healthy foods. Try to plan meals around vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Limit fatty meats and high-fat dairy products. The chart below can show you the best way to fill up your plate.
Drink water or low-fat (1%) milk with meals. Avoid sugary sodas and salty vegetable juices.
At least half the plate should be vegetables and fruits. Limit fatty toppings, such as butter, salad dressing, and sour cream.
No more than one-quarter of the plate should be meat or other protein. Fish, beans, tofu, and lean cuts of poultry are best. Bake or broil meat instead of frying.
About one-quarter of the plate can be starchy foods, such as rice and potatoes. Whole grains, such as brown rice or wholewheat bread, are best.
Giving up old food habits doesn’t have to be hard. Encouragement makes it easier to stick with a healthy eating plan. Here are some easy ways to choose healthier options:
Reducing “bad” fats in your diet helps keep your arteries healthier. Use this guide:
Choose unsaturated fats. These are found in foods such as fish, nuts, olive oil, canola oil, and avocados. In moderation, these fats can be good for you.
Limit saturated fats. These are found in meat and dairy foods, such as burgers, poultry skin, milk, cheese, and butter.
Avoid trans fats. These are often found in processed foods. Avoid any food that has the word “hydrogenated” in its ingredients. This is a signal of trans fats.
You may be asked to eat less sodium (mainly found in salt). If you have high blood pressure, your health care provider will probably recommend that you limit your sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams (mg) per day or less. Use these tips:
Look for food labels that say “salt free” or “very low sodium.” Always check for the number of servings per container on the food label, as a container of food may have more than 1 serving.
Avoid canned and packaged foods such as canned soup, instant noodles, TV dinners, and premade sauces.
Don’t add salt or soy sauce to meals. Use fresh herbs or lemon juice for seasoning. Your taste buds will adjust.
Avoid fast food. Look for “heart healthy” items on restaurant menus. These are often lower in fat and salt.
Good eating habits are easier when everyone joins in.
Help shop for healthy foods. Choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
It’s best if everyone in the family eats healthy foods. Don’t single out 1 person.
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