Becoming more heart-healthy doesn’t happen in one day. The status of your heart health is dependent on an entire lifetime of choices and other factors, including your genetics or family history. Regardless if you already have pre-existing heart conditions or you’re simply worried about your future, everyone can make simple dietary changes starting today.
A truly heart-healthy lifestyle develops from gradual steps over time. In this post, we want to share some easy food swaps to make your meals more heart-healthy.
Heart-Healthy Food Swaps
1. Swap canned vegetables with fresh vegetables
Canned foods tend to have lots of sodium. Eating too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and fluid buildup (1). Instead of pouring out a can of green beans, choose fresh or frozen vegetables for less sodium. Steam or microwave plain vegetables and season with black pepper, olive oil, and herbs.
2. Swap red meat with fish
Not only is red meat associated with greater risk of heart disease, but fish, especially fatty fish, work against heart disease (2, 3). Salmon, canned light tuna, and trout are examples of fatty fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Adequate daily intake of Omega-3s may help reduce inflammation and improve heart health biomarkers (4).
3. Swap whole milk with skim
Cut back on unhealthy saturated fat when you switch out full fat milk, yogurt, and cheese with skim or lowfat versions. Aside from less fat, skim milk has less calories and the same amount of protein as whole milk.
4. Swap fried food with grilled
The way you cook your foods can also affect its nutrition. Deep fried and breaded foods have lots more calories and fat than foods that are unbreaded and grilled. Other heart-healthy cooking methods include sautéing, poaching, baking, and steaming. If you grill your chicken breast rather than fry it, you’re doing your heart a favor.
5. Swap canned fruit with fresh fruit
Think of canned fruit as a dessert. Canned fruit has less fiber and is often canned in juice or syrup, adding an enormous amount of sugar. Choose fresh or plain, frozen fruit most often. Fresh fruit has less calories, less sugar, and more fiber than canned fruit, which is good for weight management.
6. Swap chips with popcorn
Here’s one of the best heart-healthy switches out there. Instead of fried potato chips, get some crunch with plain, air-popped popcorn. Not only is popcorn very low in calories (30 calories per 1 cup popped), but it also has fiber (5). Controlling your calorie intake while increasing your fiber intake is extremely important for supporting your heart health.
Healthy Food Swaps to Standard Meals
The goal of this 1-day meal plan is to show you how easy it is to make a few food swaps for healthier meals.
¾ cup whole grain cereal, unsweetened (instead of sweetened cereal)
½ cup skim milk (instead of whole milk)
½ cup plain tropical fruit medley, from frozen or fresh (instead of canned tropical fruit)
Optional: coffee with skim milk (instead of whole milk), green tea with lemon (instead of honey)
6 oz salmon filet, shredded for salmon tacos (instead of beef tacos)
1 whole grain tortilla (instead of white flour tortilla)
½ cup dark green leafies, shredded (instead of lettuce; for a vitamin boost)
1 dollop nonfat, plain Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream)
1/8th an avocado, sliced for topping (instead of cheddar cheese)
1 glass water (instead of juice)
1 chicken breast, grilled (instead of fried chicken)
½ cup roasted potatoes with skin, baked in olive oil (instead of French fries)
1 cup side salad with 1 Tbsp dressing (instead of canned corn or green beans)
1 glass water (instead of soda)
Snacks & Dessert
1 cup air-popped popcorn (instead of potato chips)
1 small peach (instead of canned peaches)
As you can see from the meal plan above, healthy switches don’t have to change up your whole meal. Sometimes, just preparing the food in a different way automatically makes it healthier to eat. Need more heart-healthy inspiration? Check out our collection of easy, healthy recipes.
This article is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be used as or substituted for medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions about your health or a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have read on the internet.