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A Healthy Heart Starts with a Healthful Meal

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healthful foods-heart disease-whole grains-nutritionist-dietician-food groups

Incorporating healthful foods into your meals can help decrease your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, which are some of the risk factors for developing heart disease.


Wesley McWhorter, Dr.P.H., M.S., RD, LD, CSCS,

National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Don’t fret, it is more than possible to eat the foods you love while reducing the amounts of salt, added sugars, and saturated fat you consume. Plan your meals to include foods from each of the five food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and protein. When possible, choose sources of unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oil, avocados, and unsalted nuts such as pecans, walnuts, and almonds.

Here are some meal ideas to get you started:


Start your day with a fiber-rich grain bowl. Choose from a variety of whole grains — from the loveable rolled oats to buckwheat to whole-grain barley or stone-ground grits. The best part is you can go savory or sweet depending on your mood, all while adding more fiber.

For a sweet treat, cook your whole grain with low-fat or fat-free milk or top with low-fat yogurt. You can also sweeten it with fresh or dried fruit, such as sliced bananas or berries. Don’t forget to add some toasted nuts.

For a savory breakfast, cook a grain such as stone-ground grits or buckwheat with low-sodium vegetable broth, and top it with sauteed spinach, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Finish your dish with tangy low-fat cheese and a cooked egg over easy.


Lunch is a wonderful time to eat vegetables. Create a roasted vegetable bowl with roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Serve hot over your favorite whole grain such as brown rice, and top with some toasted nuts, drained and rinsed canned chickpeas, and a drizzle of Dijon vinaigrette. Consider adding leftover chicken, fish, pork chop, or other lean protein to your bowl. Enjoy your favorite piece of fruit on the side, either whole or blended with other fruits for a sweet treat. Don’t forget to hydrate — try a fun seltzer or use fruit to flavor your water.


Take this opportunity to fix a quick, meatless weeknight meal. Try a pasta night using a whole grain or legume-based pasta. While your pasta is cooking, sauté your vegetables and combine with your favorite store-bought (or homemade) tomato sauce. You can top with some sharp cheese if you’d like. Use your microwave to add a quick vegetable side dish. For dessert, add almonds, walnuts, or berries as well as some dark chocolate atop your favorite frozen low-fat yogurt for a special treat.

For more tips, visit the Academy’s online Find a Nutrition Expert service to find a registered dietitian nutritionist who can help you create a nutrition and physical activity plan that fits your lifestyle. 

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