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Nutrition and Healthy Eating for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

If your doctor has recommended that you change the way you eat to help manage your coronary artery disease (CAD), or you would like to eat a healthier diet to help protect your heart, the first step is considering your eating goals. For example, you may want to lose weight or maintain your weight, or you may want to eat a lower–fat diet. Make sure your goals are attainable so that you are motivated and can feel a level of success every day.

Whatever your eating goals, it may be easier to achieve them if you start by making small changes, such as substituting a healthy snack for something high in fat and salt. It can also help to keep a food diary and record what you eat every day. This lets you know what works and what doesn't when it comes to achieving your goals.

Choosing heart-healthy foods

For a diet that's heart-friendly, try these strategies:

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Nutritionists recommend choosing a wide variety to get the nutrients you need.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and other dairy products.
  • Select white meat chicken, fish, and soy products, and avoid protein high in saturated fat—the type of fat found in meat and full-fat dairy products.
  • Avoid trans fatty acids found in fast foods, fried foods, and packaged foods like cookies and crackers.
  • Try to eat salmon, tuna, mackerel, or other oily fish twice a week. These fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help protect the heart.
  • Limit the amount of salt in your diet. Don't add salt when cooking, and read the labels of frozen and canned goods; these products are often high in sodium. Look for foods labeled "low salt" or "no salt added."
  • Reduce your sugar intake. This includes limiting alcoholic drinks, which can be high in sugar.

Heart-healthy recipes

The American Heart Association has recipes for low cholesterol, low-salt, and diabetes-friendly meals.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers recipes to contribute to heart health.

Tips for dining out

Eating a heart-healthy diet doesn't mean you have to avoid your favorite restaurants. When you dine out, just be choosy about the foods you order and how they're prepared. These tips may help:

  • Order foods that are broiled, baked, steamed, or grilled, not fried.
  • Avoid foods cooked in butter or served with creamy sauces.
  • Ask for salad dressing on the side, then use it sparingly.
  • Don't feel you need to clean your plate. Restaurant portions are often large enough for two people, so you may want to divide what you ordered in half and take the uneaten half home with you.

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