Meal Planning for Heart Health


Our heart is an amazing organ! It pumps blood and oxygen throughout the body and to other organs, such as the brain, for them to function properly. The arteries in which they travel must be clear and free from obstruction. A diet high in fat, especially saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol promotes the clogging of arteries. The plaque that builds up on the walls of the arteries can prevent adequate blood flow. To counteract this, it is important to eat a diet and do meal planning that decreases the chances of this plaque build-up. How can you do this? 

Healthy artery – free from obstruction

Meal planning for heart health should focus on three things: 

  1. Eating the right type of fat
  2. Eating the proper amount of fat
  3. Limiting your salt intake

Type of fat

There are two types of fats: “bad fat” (i.e., saturated fat) and “good fat” (i.e., unsaturated fat). The “bad fat” comes from animal sources like the skin and fat on meats, butter, shortening, mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based dressings (i.e., Ranch), and processed and packaged foods and snacks (i.e., potato chips, Twinkies, VELVEETA cheese). The “good fat” comes from plant sources like olives and olive oil, avocado, fish oil (i.e., omega-3 fatty acids), nuts and seeds (i.e., walnuts, flaxseeds). Consuming more “good fat” and avoiding (as much as possible) the “bad fat” can decrease the chance of clogged arteries. 

Olive oil – A “Healthy” Fat

Amount of fat

It is important to have the right amount of fat in your diet. Generally, 25-35% of your daily calories should come from fat. For instance, if you are consuming 1600 calories each day, 45-60 grams of fat is recommended. What does that look like? One tablespoon of olive oil is approximately 13.6 grams of fat. If you added a tablespoon of olive oil to two cups of salad greens for lunch, you have 30-45 grams of fat you can consume the remainder of the day.

Salt intake

Foods that are processed and/or packaged tend to be higher in salt. If you tend to eat more foods and snacks that come out of a can or bag, frozen dinners, ready-to-eat baked goods and breads, then your diet is most likely high in salt. If you cook with salt (including Season Salt, Garlic Salt, Onion Salt, bouillon), or are in the habit of adding salt to your foods before eating, then your diet is most likely high in salt.

For good heart health, it is recommended you consume no more than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 teaspoon of salt) each day. This includes the sodium content of the food and any salt you add to your foods. When cooking and/or adding flavors to your foods, choose Mrs. Dash, Papa Dash, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and/or herbs and spices that contain no salt (i.e., Rosemary, Lemon Dill, Oregano, Cinnamon, Cumin, Turmeric). 

Less sodium, healthier heart

It can be hard to make meals that are low in sodium and high in healthy fats. You may feel your food tastes “boring”. This is why we have a meal planner that will help you to make better meal choices and stay organized to minimize the rushed takeout. Your heart will thank you if you start healthier meal planning today. Try one of our many programs, including a diabetes meal plan, PCOS meal plan, IBS meal plan, and more! 

Written by Michelle Hines MS, RD. Set an appointment with Michelle here.

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