Nutrition - CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System

Skip to Content

Section Menu

Heart Healthy Nutrition

Eating right is the basis of good health, and your heart is one of your organs that benefits the most. 

From lean proteins to daily fruits and vegetables, eating healthy is easy and should be a focus for you and your family, starting at the grocery store.

Here are some great heart healthy nutrition tips to help you take better are of your heart. 

Nutrition Tips

Limit your trans and saturated fats

Types of Fat and the Recommended Daily Amount

  • Saturated Fat - Less than 7 percent of your total daily calories.
  • Trans Fat - Less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.
  • Cholesterol - Less than 300 milligrams a day for healthy adults; less than 200 milligrams a day for adults with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol or those who are taking cholesterol-lowering medication.

The best way to limit saturated and trans fats is to limit the amount of solid fats such as butter, margarine and shortening. These are commonly used and included into our foods. Avoid fried foods or use substitutes wherever possible. For example use low-fat sour cream or salsa on a baked potato instead of butter and sour cream, or avoid frying meats; broil, bake or barbeque instead. Use olive oil instead of shortening and avoid deep fried foods or battered fried foods.

Do check the food labels, especially those that are labeled "reduced fat" because you may find that these items are substituting fat with oils that contain trans fats. "Partially hydrogenated" is a typical phrase that indicates trans fat so use this as a clue when reading those labels.

The healthier solution is to choose foods that contain monounsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts and seeds, which are also good choices. Both of these types of fat may help to lower your total blood cholesterol - but with moderation because these are still "fats."


  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Margarine labeled "trans fat-free"
  • Cholesterol-lowering margarine or buttery spreads, such as Benecol, Promise or Smart Balance


  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Bacon
  • Gravy
  • Cream sauces
  • Nondairy creamers
  • Hydrogenated margarine and shortening
  • Cocoa butter, found in chocolate
  • Coconut, palm, cottonseed and palm-kernel oils

Choose sources of low-fat protein

Lean meats, skinless poultry and fish, or low-fat dairy products and egg whites are your best sources of low-fat protein. Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are also great sources and contain less fat and no cholesterol, which makes them great alternatives to meat. Use the guide below to help you to select:


  • Skim or low-fat (1 percent) milk
  • Fat free or low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese
  • Egg whites and egg substitutes
  • Fish, especially cold water fatty fish, like salmon
  • Skinless poultry
  • Soybeans or soy products
  • Lean ground meats


  • Whole milk, full-fat milk, cream and butter
  • Organ meats, such as liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty, marbled meats
  • Cold cuts, lunch meats
  • Frankfurters, hot dogs and sausages
  • Bacon
  • Fried, breaded, canned foods not low in fat

Eat more fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a great source for vitamins and minerals; they are lower in calories and rich in fiber. Fruits and vegetables also contain substances that help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables will fill you up more, helping you to eat less high-fat foods and snacks.

Eating more fruits and vegetables is actually easier than you think.

  • Choose recipes that include fruits and vegetables in them
  • Keep apples, grapes, peaches on hand
  • Try new foods like stir-fry, fruit salads or canned fruits and vegetables (with low sodium and low sugar content)
  • Avoid drenching fruits and vegetables in butter, dressings, sugar and sauces as these add fats and calories
  • Try to avoid breaded and fried vegetables, canned fruits in heavy syrup and coconut

Select whole grains

Whole grains are a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and iron. The nutrients found in whole grains also help regulate blood pressure and maintain your heart’s health. Choose breads, pasta and cereals made from 100 percent whole grain and avoid refined white flour. Select high-fiber breakfast cereals or oatmeal instead of sugary cereals, muffins or doughnuts.

Flaxseed is another whole grain to add to your diet. Ground flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower your total blood cholesterol. You can easily add ground flaxseed to your foods by stirring in a teaspoon over hot cereal, applesauce or yogurt.

Below is a quick-guide of whole grain food choices:


  • Whole-wheat flour
  • Whole-grain bread, preferably 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain
  • High-fiber cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-grain pasta
  • Oatmeal (steel cut or regular)
  • Ground flaxseed


  • White rice
  • Frozen waffles
  • Doughnuts and muffins
  • Biscuits, rolls and cornbread
  • White breads
  • Granola bars
  • Cakes and pies
  • Egg noodles, pastas and boxed noodles
  • Bagged or movie popcorn
  • Potato chips, corn chips and snack crackers

Reduce salt intake

It’s hard to avoid – but eating a lot of salt can contribute to high blood pressure. Reducing the salt in your food is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, which is about 1 teaspoon.

Salt is added to many foods that are canned, processed, frozen and prepared. Snacks, chips, crackers, soups, frozen dinners all add salt to improve flavor.

The best way to reduce salt intake is to eat fresh foods and make your own soups. Another way is to replace salt with salt substitutes, herbs and spices or choose reduced-salt condiments or prepared/processed foods.

Eat in moderation

Yes, diet means eating in moderation. Overloading your plate, eating until you feel stuffed or taking seconds causes you to consume more calories and fat than you actually need. Eating out leads to eating more than you should and often it means eating foods that shouldn’t be consumed on a regular basis.

Use methods to keep track of your food intake—you’ll be surprised by how much you consume and by what types of food you’re eating on a regular basis.

A heart-healthy diet also is about maintaining balance and control. Eating enough fruits and vegetables, and not overindulging in empty calories keeps your whole body healthy, not just your heart.

It’s okay to treat yourself to your favorite ice cream or candy, just moderate that to once a week and even then, limit the amount you consume. Don’t let your favorite treat become an excuse to abandon your healthy-eating plan, but rather make healthy eating habits the norm.

Create daily menus and plan

Put your plans in action by creating daily menus. Using the strategies listed above, emphasize vegetables, fruits and whole grains, choose lean protein and limit high-fat and salty foods. Planning your meals ahead helps you to shop smart when you go to the store – saving money as well. Variety also helps make mealtime and snacks more interesting.

Use these seven tips as a guide to preventing heart disease and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll regain control of your cholesterol. You’ll also be pleased by how easy it can be to lose weight.

Looking for more heart tips?

Visit the American Heart Association for more great tips, or visit our Fitness Center for information on physical training programs available at CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital.

Heart Risk Assessment

Take our free Heart Risk Assessment to find out if you're at risk for heart disease.

Related Locations