Changing habits: eating for a healthy heart

Just as barriers exist for beginning and maintaining a regular exercise and physical activity program, similar barriers exist for making successful dietary changes. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind as you start developing heart-healthy eating patterns.

Eating only as much as you need. Remember to do the push-away and to reduce your serving sizes. By reducing the total number of calories you consume, you are starting a lifestyle change that can lead to lower body weight and lower blood cholesterol.

Eating out. When dining out, ask for a heart-healthy menu. Also, look at the portion sizes. You can reduce your caloric intake by not eating all that is served or by dividing the portion in half and taking the remainder home for a later meal.

Eating slowly. By eating slowly you give your brain more time to recognize how much you have eaten and how full your stomach is. This technique works very closely with the push-away.

Keeping track of what you eat. Many people find that knowing how much they are eating is helpful in reducing the amount they consume. Keep a record of allthat you eat for several days, and then review this record and develop strategies for exchanging some foods for other foods and eliminating some foods altogether. Periodically keep a record of what you eat and reassess your eating habits. This would be a good time to visit a dietitian and get advice.

Finally, you may encounter situations where you fall off the wagon. One time of not following proper dietary recommendations does not equal the end of your dietary behavior change. If you follow a heart-healthy diet all the time, it is not going to hurt you to occasionally fall off the wagon, but do not let one time lead to a series of “one-time” negative behaviors. Rather, consider each situation as its own challenge. Find a way to make the best of the circumstances and overcome the setting as you develop and maintain heart-healthy behaviors. When you fall off the wagon, get right back on.

Healthy Diet Resources
Here are some Web sites that you may find helpful in your quest for a well-balanced, heart-healthy diet:,1525,10057,00.html#Health_Benefits

Developing healthy dietary behaviors is as important as developing regular exercise habits. Regular exercise and good eating behaviors work together to affect blood cholesterol. By following the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recommendations of eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), and less saturated fat; keeping consumption of dairy products low to moderate; and reducing caloric intake, you can lower your body weight and reduce blood cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels.

From Action Plan for High Cholesterol by J. Larry Durstine, PhD.
Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order at or by calling 1-800-465-7301.