A healthy diet and lifestyle can help fight cardiovascular disease. Making small dietary adjustments daily can translate into life long-term benefits for your health and your heart.

These simple steps can help you get on track towards a lifetime of healthy eating

Reduce total cholesterol: Limit the amount of cholesterol you consume to less than 200 milligrams per day. Foods high in cholesterol include egg yolks (one yolk has about 212 milligrams of cholesterol), fatty meats, whole milk, cheese and shrimp.

Limit total fat: Total fat intake (this includes heart-healthy fats) should be approximately 25-35 percent of the total calories you eat per day.

For example, if you consume 2,000 calories per day, your fat intake can be approximately between 50 and 75 grams daily.

Foods high in fat include fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, whole milk, cream, butter, fried foods and packaged foods made with hydrogenated oils; Attempt to eliminate these trans fats/hydrogenated oils altogether.

Watch sodium: Recommendations for sodium intake range from 1,500 to 1,800 milligrams per day. A good rule of thumb is to select foods with 140 milligrams or less of sodium; foods with more than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving may not fit into a reduced-sodium meal plan.

Be sure to check serving sizes on the label — if you eat more than one serving, you will consume more sodium than the amount listed. Use caution when eating out as restaurant and fast-food meals are generally high in sodium.

Eat omega-3 fats: Omega-3 fatty acids are considered heart healthy fats.

Good choices include salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines; attempt to eat fish at least twice a week. Other foods with omega-3 fats include walnuts, canola oil and soybean oil.

Flaxseed is also another great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consume flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed to obtain the most fatty acid.

Up dietary fiber: Make a goal to consume 20 to 30 grams of dietary fiber per day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dried beans are great sources of fiber. Aim for 5 cups total of fruits and vegetables and about 3 ounces of whole grain foods per day.

The best plan of action is to talk to your dietitian or doctor about what healthy weight is appropriate for you and set goals to reach and maintain this weight. In addition, talk with your health care team to find out what type of physical activity is ideal for you.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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