It should come to no ones surprise that doctors recommend everyone follow a heart healthy diet.

When I first heard this I thought – sure but I have no heart issue so I shouldn’t be concerned. This was the wrong way of thinking.

The best medicine for heart health is preventative. Heart disease does not develop overnight. It’s a progressive development resulting in years of eating habbits (and some genetics).

I started to look into it and figured I might as well begin first step of the process. Awareness.

I knew that regardless of whether or not I would follow a heart healthy diet at the very least I should be aware of what it entails.

I realized there are tons of resource on the internet today but I needed something simple. A quick go to guide that can remind me what is healthy and what is not. After all this was just preventative so I was just looking for some guidance.

After doing some research I decided to create a simple chart that’s easy to follow

Heart Healthy Foods

I decided to lay out some common foods I consume on a regular basis.

The result: refined and processed foods bad. Wholesome and fresh foods good.

Fair enough.

I knew that it wasn’t so simple. I didn’t want to be poking into every ingredient of everything I ate so I also wanted to be aware of alternatives. I decided to research alternatives to the two most offending foods salt and sugar. These would come a long way since both were in almost everything.

With my research all set I decided to start my lifestyle change for the betterment of my future self. Here are the steps I decided to follow and stick to this day.

1. Control portion size

How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Preventing overeating was one of the most important way to limit calories and therefor keep weight under control.

This was not easy especially when eating out with portion sizes out of control. My tip, eat slow. For every bite or two I would take I would wait a few minutes. Yes my food sometimes got a little colder but I found myself getting full faster and eating substantially less. Plus I had more leftovers which meant my meals went much further saving me money too.

2. Eat more vegetables and fruits

If it wasn’t obvious by my healthy food chart eating fruits and vegetables are good for you. They provide a good source of vitamins, minerals, and are rich in dietary fiber.

Plus these allowed me to cut back on higher calories foods since I allowed myself much bigger portions when it came to raw veggies.

3. Select whole grains

Another obvious one that I swapped out all my “white” products for the “brown” products. Whole grains, brown rice, farro, quinoa, you name it.

These foods were great for regulating blood pressure and I actually started to like the taste better after some time.

4. Limit fats

First off I love eating fats. Avocados, cheese, olive oil are some of my most consumed foods. But this isn’t about limiting all fats, just the unhealthy ones.

High saturated fats contribute to higher blood cholesterol and risk coronary artery disease. This can be found in foods such as cakes, frostings, cookies, and chips. I already knew those were unhealthy so gone they were.

5. Choose low-fat protein

I decided to adjust my protein intake away form the steaks and pork to more poultry, fish, and eggs. These chose to be some of the better sources of protein since all were lean.

I also decided to consume beans, peas, lentils, and tofu as a substitute for meat. There are tons of resources out there to find recipes that can really maximize the flavor of these.

6. Reduce the sodium

This was a hard one for me. I love salt especially the Maldon Salt Flakes on top of my food. Salt is a huge contributor to high blood pressure so I knew this was a major one to cut.

As I researched this though I found a sense of relieve. Most of the foods that are high in sodium are prepacked and frozen meals. Instant ramen, soups, and snacks have huge portions of sodium. By cutting these out I could preserve my precious salt flake topping and continue to use it in moderation.

7. Meal Prep

Meal prep is by far the easiest way to ensure you have healthy food to eat on a regular basis. Who wants to cook every night? More so who wants to clean?

I decided to dedicate two days of the week to serious meal prep but also planned ahead when making big meals to always make some leftovers. If you aren’t somewhat meal prepping try to start you will surely benefit from it.

8. Allow yourself a treat

Last but certainly not least. Cheat meal.

Now this is no ordinary weight loss diet so when I say cheat meal I mean going out to a restaurant and enjoying a burger and some fries. Not downing a large pizza and a 2 liter soda to yourself.

Want a candy bar? Maybe some potato chips? Go for it. As long as it’s in moderation nothing should be off limits.

Diets are not meant to be extreme. This is no diet it’s a lifestyle change.

When it comes to keeping a healthy heart your best bet is to use common sense. The less packaged or process the food undergoes the better. When in doubt go for raw ingredients and treat yourself from time to time and you’ll be on the road to a long healthy life.