The 3-Step Plan to Eating for a Healthier Heart

Implementing a balanced, heart-healthy diet seems fairly straightforward.

Eat more veggies.

Watch out for food items with significant amounts of salt and fat.

Keep your meals balanced.

Practice portion control.

We could share these tips with you all day long, but without a clear understanding of how to maintain these healthy eating habits on a daily basis, you may find yourself starting from square one. Karen VanBuren, a registered dietitian at ProMedica Bixby and ProMedica Herrick hospitals, offers advice on how to keep healthy eating a priority.

“Healthy lifestyles don’t just happen, they are planned,” VanBuren says. “You need to take the time to plan, shop, prep, and cook.”

Step 1: Plan Ahead

Proper planning ensures that you have all the ingredients you need to cook a healthy meal. VanBuren recommends taking time to figure out your weekly meals and shop accordingly. Buying pre-cut, frozen fruits and vegetables can speed up your prep time. VanBuren also suggests cooking large batches of your favorite meals ahead of time, including soup and chili, that you can easily freeze and reheat at a later date.

Step 2: Watch Your Portions

Controlling your hunger and sticking to healthy portions can be difficult for some people, warns VanBuren. “As tempting as it is to rely on a preplanned menu that specifies exact portions for meals, this rarely works because it feels like a strict diet, and diets do not work,” she says.

But one effective way to manage your portions is to utilize the Hunger Fullness Scale, which helps you listen to your own body to measure your hunger levels. According to VanBuren, the scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 being ravenously hungry, 10 is stuffed and 5 is neutral. “If you eat at the point where you are feeling full, then you are likely storing fat,” VanBuren says. Here’s how to safely follow the scale:

  • Eat snacks instead of large meals to help you stay in the 4-5 range.
  • Start by eating half of what you think you want, and then wait 20 minutes. If you are still hungry, continue eating
  • Make sure you have healthy options readily available, including fruit, vegetables, high fiber crackers, and granola bars.
  • Drink a glass of water 15 minutes before eating. If you are still hungry, have a meal or snack. Staying hydrated is key to maintaining a healthy diet.

Step 3: Know Your Nutritional Resources

It’s important to get your nutritional facts and information from a credible source.

VanBuren recommends reading up on the latest news and research by entities such as the United States Department of Agriculture, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Fruits & Veggies—More Matters!, and the American Institute for Cancer Research.