Nutrition Experts

Question:
My father-in-law is visiting and he has heart problems. What foods can I serve that will fit his diet?
Answer:
Your entire family can benefit from a diet that promotes heart health. It's important to limit the saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium in foods. But it's also important to include nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, whole grains and low-fat dairy products¬, according to the American Heart Association.

Before your father-in-law arrives, ask if he received specific dietary advice from his doctor or registered dietitian so you can prepare meals with that advice in mind. However, the following tips are in line with most diet plans for heart health:

Breakfast: Offer oatmeal, whole-grain cereals and whole-grain breads and muffins. Research shows that whole grains, particularly oatmeal and other whole oat cereals, may help manage blood cholesterol levels. Limit cholesterol-raising saturated fat by offering fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt. To cut down on dietary cholesterol, which also can raise cholesterol, make egg dishes and omelets with egg substitutes or use half whole eggs and half egg whites. Use egg whites or substitutes to make pancakes and waffles, too (and use half whole-wheat flour and half white flour for the batter). And don't forget the fruit!

Lunch: Deli meats usually are high in sodium, so choose reduced-sodium varieties for sandwiches or slice leftover chicken, turkey breast or lean steak (make sure to remove the skin from poultry and trim visible fat from meat). Choose reduced-fat or low-fat cheeses, too, to limit saturated fat. Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread and layer on lots of veggies. Spread with mustard or low-fat mayo. Or, mix water-packed canned salmon or tuna with low-fat mayo for a sandwich filling or salad topper. Make bean or veggie soup with low-sodium broth. Set out plenty of cut-up veggies and fruit, too.

Dinner: Serve fish such as salmon and trout that's especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids-they're good for heart health. Other options are lean meats (look for the words "loin" or "round" in the name such as tenderloin or top round) or skinless poultry. Grill, broil or roast meat, poultry and fish instead of frying. Serve vegetarian main dishes too, like bean burritos wrapped in whole-grain tortillas or whole-wheat pasta tossed with veggies sautéed in olive oil. Toss up a green salad loaded with colorful veggies and drizzle with light salad dressing. Fruit makes a great dessert.

Here are some additional tips to use during food preparation and at the table:
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Use vegetable oils such as olive oil and canola oil or soft tub margarine instead of butter.

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Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt.

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Opt for reduced-sodium or low-sodium varieties of packaged foods such as soups, canned vegetables and pasta sauces.
Nutritionist Experts
Our Nutrition Experts are registered dietitians who hold master's degrees and are members of the American Dietetic Association and several specialty nutrition groups. They combine over 40 years experience in food and nutrition science, communications and counseling, the culinary arts and the development of nutrition education materials. They are quoted frequently in the national media and have written about nutrition for many major magazines, newspapers, and newsletters.