Eating for a healthy heart

For many years, the traditional Australian diet has been too high in meat and animal fat and lacking in vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes and grains. This has made us very vulnerable to heart and blood vessel disease, not to mention a whole range of other diseases.

You can make a huge difference to your heart and to your general health just by making a few simple changes in your way of eating. Start gradually, and see how many of these changes you can incorporate into your daily diet.

  • Make vegetables a major part of at least one meal each day and eat fruit frequently — the recommended intake is 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit daily.
  • Choose wholegrain breads instead of white varieties more often.
  • Eat more cereals (rice, pasta and other grains) and legumes (dried peas and beans). Try flavouring these with small amounts of lean meat, rather than basing the whole meal around meat. Like meat, legumes are a good source of iron and protein.
  • Use only very small amounts of very lean meats, and eat poultry without skin.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products (milk, yoghurt and cheese).
  • Eat fish (fresh or canned and not fried) 2 to 3 times a week.
  • Make high-fat and/or high-sugar bakery products, fast foods, desserts, soft drinks (including fruit juice drinks) and confectionery occasional treats rather than everyday food.
  • Use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oils (e.g. olive, canola, sunflower and safflower) for cooking.
  • Use small amounts of margarine spreads or olive oil instead of butter.
  • Grill, boil, steam, bake or microwave rather than fry.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Look for the Heart Foundation Tick for healthy food choices.
  • Drink no more than 2 standard drinks of alcohol a day.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Rediscover the joy of cooking wholesome meals at home, and teach your kids!

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