Simple Dietary Suggestions
While exercise is important for overall heart health, when it comes to weight loss and cholesterol management, dietary control is the most effective measure to achieve your goals and thereby lower your risk for heart disease. In general, making healthy choices and developing healthy habits are the best strategies for long-term success.
1) Choose foods low in saturated fat.
All foods that contain fat are made up of a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fat raises your blood cholesterol level more than anything else you eat. The best way to reduce blood cholesterol is to choose foods lower in saturated fat. One approach is to substitute
unsaturated fat--either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated--for saturated fat. See Dr. George Younis' article on fats for more information.
2) Choose foods high in starch and fiber.
A complementary strategy involves choosing foods high in fiber, rather than saturated fat. These foods--breads, cereals, pasta, grains, fruits, and vegetables--are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They are also lower in calories than foods that are high in fat. But limit fatty toppings and spreads like butter and sauces made with cream and whole milk dairy products. Foods high in starch and fiber are also good sources of vitamins and minerals. When eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, foods with soluble fiber--like oat and barley bran and dry peas and beans--may help to lower blood cholesterol. See Dr. George Younis' article on fiber for more information.
3) Choose foods low in cholesterol.
Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol, although usually not as much as saturated fat. Dietary cholesterol is found only in foods that come from animals. And even if an animal food is low in saturated fat, it may be high in cholesterol; for instance, organ meats like liver and egg yolks are low in saturated fat but high in cholesterol. Egg whites and foods from plant sources do not have cholesterol.
4) Eat when you are hungry.
This may seem elementary, but what it really means is when not to eat. Don't eat just because food is available, in front of you, or on your kid's plate and she is not going to finish it. Don't eat because you are happy, depressed, anxious, bored, or just out of habit. Eat when you feel hunger.
5) Serve yourself a smaller portion of food.
There is no need to pile a plate high with a mountain of food. In the vast majority of situations, a simple regular sized dinner plate of food is more than enough for one meal. If you are going out to a restaurant, ask the waiter to split your meal in two before it's even brought to your table. That way you can be served a smaller portion for today's meal, and you already have tomorrow night's dinner packed up in a to-go bag.
6) Eat more slowly.
Eating too fast is a major contributor to over-eating. Chew slowly. Enjoy each bite. Put your fork down between bites and have a sip of water.
7) No Seconds.
8) Stop eating when you are no longer hungry.
Many of us are conditioned to eat until we are (a) full, (b) done with our plate, or (c) finished with our mealtime conversation. However, the right time to stop eating is when you are not hungry anymore.
Applying these simple dietary suggestions on a daily basis can help lead to not just weight loss, but long term heart health.