Heart Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is an essential step towards a better life. The American Heart Association recommends you eat a variety of nutritious foods every day. If you suffer from high blood pressure, heart failure or are recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, eating a heart healthy diet is especially important for you to follow.

To have a heart healthy diet, it is important to:

  • Aim for 4 – 5 servings each of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains such as whole wheat bread, whole grain cereal, and whole grain pasta.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, and safflower oil as your main cooking oil instead of butter and stick margarine.
  • Choose more skinless poultry, fish, and beans that are generally lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, and lamb.
  • Aim to eat no more than 2,000 mg per day of sodium or as recommended by your doctor.
  • Use a small plate to prevent you from overeating.
  • Limit your consumption of:
    • Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol such as butter, margarine, fatty meats
    • Salt and other forms of sodium such as canned foods, processed meats, condiments
    • Added sugars such as candies, soda, cookies

The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) eating plan has all the recommended components of a heart healthy diet. It is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat, with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It also includes whole grain products, fish, poultry, and nuts. Compared to the typical American diet, it is reduced in red meat, sweets, added sugar, and sugar-containing beverages.

DASH eating plan for adults consuming 2,000 calories daily

Food Group

Daily Servings

Serving Sizes


6 – 8

- 1 slice of bread
- 1 oz. dry cereal
- ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, or cereal


4 – 5

- 1 cup raw leafy vegetables
- ½ cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables
- ½ cup vegetable juice


4 – 5

- 1 medium fruit
- ¼ cup dried fruit
- ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
- ½ cup fruit juice

Fat-free / low-fat dairy products

2 – 3

- 1 cup milk or yogurt
- 1 ½ oz. cheese

Lean meats, poultry, fish

6 or less

- 1 oz. cooked meats, poultry, or fish
- 1 egg (limit to 4 egg yolks per week)

Nuts, seeds, and legumes

4 – 5 per week

- 1/3 cup or 1 ½ oz. nuts
- 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
- 2 Tbsp or ½ oz. seeds
- ½ cup cooked legumes

Fats and oils

2 – 3

- 1 tsp. soft margarine
- 1 tsp. vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. salad dressing

Sweets and added sugars

5 or less per week

- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. jelly or jam
- ½ cup sorbet or gelatin
- 1 cup lemonade

The number of servings you need may vary, depending on your caloric need.

To schedule an appointment for help developing your own heart healthy plan, call Gundersen Nutrition Therapy at (608) 775-3447 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 53447.

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