Low-Fat, Heart-Healthy Menus

Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein make up a heart-healthy diet.

Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein make up a heart-healthy diet.

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Your risk of heart disease can be reduced by following a heart-healthy diet that includes limiting salt found in canned and processed foods and fat in red meat, cheese and baked goods. Focus instead on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean sources of protein.

Focus on Produce

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a heart-healthy diet, low in fat and calories and high in fiber and vitamins. Choose fresh produce such as red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, blackberries or bananas, which are packed with nutrients. Include a fruit or vegetable with each meal and snack to meet dietary recommendations. Americans should consume 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, according to the American Heart Association. By filling up on fruits and vegetables, you may be less likely to eat high-fat foods. Avoid non-heart-healthy options such as vegetables with creamy sauces, canned fruit with heavy syrup and fried vegetables.

Eat Whole Grains

Whole grains are low in fat and rich in fiber. They can help to regulate blood pressure and play a role in heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic. Replace refined grain products such as white bread or pasta with whole-grain versions. Excellent options include quinoa, whole-grain bread and crackers or barley. A smart breakfast option is 1 cup of oatmeal with a banana and skim milk. Avoid high-fat carbohydrates such as doughnuts, cakes, pies and biscuits.

Choose Lean Protein

Meat is commonly high in fat and cholesterol. Choose meats such as boneless, skinless turkey or chicken, or lean beef. Other high-protein options include low-fat or fat-free dairy products, egg whites or beans. Fish is full of protein and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower triglycerides in the blood. Omega-3 fatty acids are rich in salmon, herring and mackerel. A healthy meal option would be a salmon burger on a whole wheat bun with a side salad. Choosing plant sources of protein such as a soy or bean burger instead of a hamburger will reduce fat and cholesterol intake. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat should be limited to less than 7 percent of your daily calories, and cholesterol intake should be under 300 milligrams per day.

Meal Ideas

A smart breakfast option would be low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries, which packs both fiber and protein. A healthy lunch option is a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomato and an apple on the side. For dinner, try a half-cup of brown rice topped with stir-fried boneless, skinless chicken breast and a variety of vegetables, such a broccoli and bell pepper. Another smart choice would be a vegetarian soy burger on a whole wheat bun with a small baked potato on the side.

About the Author

Amanda Hernandez is a registered dietitian who holds a Master of Arts degree in family and consumer sciences with an emphasis in dietetics from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in "Women's World" and "Women's Day" magazines. She writes for nutritionistreviews.com and has been a nutrition writer since 2010.

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