If you are diagnosed with heart disease or other cardiac problems, you likely have also been advised to change your diet to support better heart health. Your cardiovascular health can be profoundly affected by your diet, but making life changes can still be challenging for patients. If you are struggling to change your diet, here are some small steps you can take to get on the road to better eating habits.
1. Change one meal a day.
Changing everything at once can be daunting, so why not just begin with breakfast? A focus on low-fat, plant-based foods will improve your cholesterol levels. If you're used to eating eggs and bacon for breakfast, you might wonder what to eat instead.
Try eating whole grain toast with sliced strawberries or making yourself a smoothie with banana, blueberries, and a little spinach.
If lunch is your bigger downfall because you usually eat out, replace lunch. After you're used to replacing one meal, move on to replacing another, until you've changed the habits of your day in totality.
2. Drink water before eating a snack.
Sometimes, you can feel like you need a snack when you really need a drink of water. The next time you have a craving for a sweet snack in the middle of the afternoon, try drinking some water and eating a few almonds. The protein in the almonds will help to curb your appetite, and the water will moisten your mouth better than a sugary treat.
3. Change the way you view convenience meals.
Fast food is a major contributor to poor heart health, but it doesn't have to be. If you feel like you're always on the go, look for new ways to eat conveniently. For example, instead of picking up a sandwich and fries from the drive-through, keep a box of whole grain granola bars in the back of your car. These are just as convenient but will have much lower fat and sodium content. Other foods are also convenient and good for you, including applesauce packets, low-fat yogurt cups, and even lightly salted popcorn (which has less fat and sodium than chips).
4. Prepare healthy meals ahead of time.
How will you adapt your eating to include more vegetables? Prep them ahead of time. On Sunday or another day off, take time to wash and slice your veggies so they are ready to eat as soon as you need them. Then, making a salad or throwing together a basic stir-fry is much easier.
Contact a cardiac care center for more information on eating heart-healthy foods.