When you’re living with coronary artery disease (CAD), it’s especially important to maintain a heart-healthy diet to help address other health conditions and risk factors that contribute to CAD, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or diabetes. In addition to taking the medicines prescribed by your healthcare professional, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating well, and staying active can go a long way toward helping slow the progression of your CAD. Whether you’re just getting started or recommitting to a healthier lifestyle, the following tips can help make healthy eating simple and straightforward.
1. Get familiar with heart-healthy eating basics
The following diet guidelines from the American Heart Association can help you lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control your weight, and reduce your risk for diabetes—all of which are risk factors for CAD.
- Limit unhealthy fats and sodium
- Avoid sugary and processed foods
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Choose whole grains
- Choose low-fat protein sources, like skinless chicken and fish
- Choose skim or low-fat dairy products
2. Understand portion size
Did you know that meal portions have nearly doubled in the last 20 years? Thankfully, help to remember how much you should be eating is as close as your hand!
- 3 oz lean protein, like fish or chicken = a deck of cards
- 1 cup fresh fruit or vegetables = a tennis ball
- 1 serving of potatoes, rice, or pasta = an ice cream scoop
- 1 oz of peanut butter or cheese = your thumb
At mealtime, it also helps to eat from a salad plate rather than a full-size dinner plate. Fill up half your plate with vegetables and divide the other half between lean protein and grains or starch.
3. Treat yourself! (Occasionally)
Eating well doesn’t mean you can never have your favorite foods again. When you’re regularly making healthy choices, you can feel better about treating yourself when the occasion arises.
4. Plan ahead
It’s easier to control how often and how much you eat when you plan meals and snacks ahead of time. Try making a weekly menu with what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
5. Drink alcohol in moderation
Not only can alcoholic beverages add up to more calories, too much alcohol can have negative effects on your health. Try to stick to no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman, and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.