A heart-healthy diet is a meal plan that is low in total fat, unhealthy fat, and sodium (salt). A heart-healthy diet helps reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Limit the amount of fat you eat to 25% to 35% of your total daily calories. Limit sodium below 2,300 mg a day. A dietitian will teach you how to read and understand food labels.


Healthy fats:

Healthy fats help improve cholesterol levels. The risk of heart disease is lowered when cholesterol levels are normal. Choose healthy fats such as the following:

  • Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as soybeans, canola, olive, corn, and sunflower oils. It is also found in mild margarine made with liquid vegetable oil.
  • Omega-3 fats are found in certain fish, such as salmon, tuna and trout, nuts and flaxseed.

Unhealthy fats:

Bad” fats can cause harmful levels of cholesterol in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease. Limit unhealthy fats, such as the following:

  • Cholesterol is found in foods of animal origin, such as eggs and lobster, as well as dairy products made with whole milk. Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams (mg) per day. You may need to limit your cholesterol to 200 mg a day if you have heart disease.
  • Saturated fats are found in meats such as bacon and hamburger. They are also found in chicken and turkey skins, whole milk and butter. Limit saturated fat to less than 7% of your total daily calories. Limit saturated fat to less than 6% if you have heart disease or are at increased risk for it.
  • Trans fat is found in packaged foods, such as potato chips and cookies. It is also found in hard margarine, some fried foods and butter. Avoid trans fats as much as possible.

Heart-healthy foods and drinks to include:

Ask your nutritionist or doctor to tell you how many servings you need of the following foods from each food group:


  • Whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, and brown rice
  • Low-fat, low-sodium chips and crackers


  • Broccoli, green beans, peas and spinach
  • Kale, cabbage and beans
  • Carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and peppers
  • Canned vegetables without added salt


  • Bananas, peaches, pears and pineapple
  • Grapes, raisins and dates
  • Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, orange juice and grapefruit juice
  • Apricots, mangoes, melon and papaya
  • Raspberries and strawberries
  • Canned fruits with no added sugars

Low-fat dairy products:

  • Fat-free (skim) milk, 1% milk, low-fat almond milk, cashew nut or calcium-fortified soy milk
  • Cottage cheese, low-fat cheese and regular or frozen yogurt
  • Meat and protein, lean cuts of beef or pork (chops, leg, ball), chicken and turkey without skin, legumes, soy products, egg whites and nuts or dried fruits.

Foods and beverages to limit or avoid:

Ask your doctor or dietitian about these and other foods that contain high levels of sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats:

  • Packaged foods, such as frozen foods, cookies, macaroni and cheese, and cereals with more than 300 mg of sodium per serving
  • Canned products or dried mixes for cakes, soups or sauces
  • Vegetables with added sodium , such as instant potatoes, vegetables with added sauces, or regular vegetable preserves
  • Other high-sodium foods, such as tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, salad dressing, cucumber pickles, olives, soy sauce, and miso
  • High-fat dairy foods such as whole or 2% milk, cream or sour cream cheese, and cheeses
  • Foods with high-fat protein cuts of meat (such as ribs, bone-in chops), skinless chicken or turkey, and animal viscera such as liver
  • Cured or smoked meats, such as sausages, bacon, and sausages
  • Unhealthy oils and fats such as butter, stick margarine, lard, and cooking oils such as coconut or palm oil
  • Foods and drinks high in sugar , such as soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened tea, sweets, cakes, cookies, cakes, and doughnuts

Other dietary guidelines to follow:

  • Eat more foods that contain Omega-3 fats. Eat fish with high amounts of Omega-3 at least 2 times a week.
  • Limit alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can damage your heart and raise your blood pressure. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink per day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce and ½ of liquor.
  • Choose low-sodium foods. High-sodium foods can lead to high blood pressure. When preparing food, add too little salt or do not use salt. Use herbs and spices instead of salt.
  • Eat more fiber to help lower cholesterol levels. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Eat 3 ounces of whole-grain foods a day. Legumes are a good source of fiber.
  • Eat your meals regularly. Don’t skip any foods. Don’t skip any meals because this can lead to eating more an hour later in the day. This could lead to weight loss problems. If you don’t have time for regular meals, eat a healthy snack. Talk to a dietitian to help you create a meal plan and schedule that is right for you.