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Heart-Healthy Eating: Create a Healthy Plate

A heart-healthy diet may help prevent or treat high blood cholesterol levels, whereas a diet high in fat and cholesterol may contribute to the development of heart disease. Adults and healthy children age 2 and older are recommended to follow a diet low in fat, where 30 percent of their calories are from fat. Here we help you understand how to build a healthy plate. 

Making Healthy Food ChoicesChoose My Plate icon

The My Plate icon is a guideline to help you and your family eat a healthy diet. My Plate can help you eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the following food plate to guide parents in selecting foods for adults and children age 2 and older.

The My Plate icon is divided into five food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:

  • Grains. Foods made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain are grain products. Make at least half of your grains whole grains. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice and oatmeal.
  • Vegetables. Vary your vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange vegetables, legumes (dry beans and peas) and starchy vegetables. 
  • Fruits. Whole fruits include fresh, frozen, dried, and canned options. Choose whole fruits more often than 100% fruit juice.
  • Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk products, as well as those that are high in calcium.
  • Protein. Go lean with protein. Choose low-fat or lean cuts of meat and poultry. Vary your protein routine by choosing more fish, nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas.

Oils are not a food group, yet some, like vegetable and nut oils, contain essential nutrients and can be included in the diet in moderation. Others, like animal fats, are solid and should be avoided. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet consisting of vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits, and olive oil lowers the risk of heart disease.

Keeping your sodium intake to less than 2.3 grams of sodium a day lowers the risk of a heart attack.

Exercise and everyday physical activity should also be included with a healthy dietary plan. 


What is Saturated Fat?

Saturated fat is a type of fat found in foods and is usually solid at room temperature. This type of fat may raise the body's total blood cholesterol level more than other types of fat. It is recommended to limit saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fat to help decrease the risk for heart disease. Some of the main sources of saturated fat include the following:

  • Butter
  • Cheeses
  • Fatty meats (bacon, hot dogs, ribs and sausage)
  • Chicken skin
  • Whole milk
  • Ice cream
  • Pizza
  • Grain and dairy based desserts
  • Coconut oil
  • Palm oil

What is Unsaturated Fat?

Unsaturated fat is a type of fat in foods and is usually liquid at room temperature. This type of fat does not usually increase the body's total blood cholesterol level when eaten in moderate amounts. Foods high in unsaturated fats that can replace unhealthy fats include the following:

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower and sunflower oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Corn oil and vegetable oils

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by the body and found in some foods. Cholesterol found in foods is called dietary cholesterol and is found only in animal foods, like the following:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Plant foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) do not contain cholesterol. If the body's blood cholesterol gets too high, then cholesterol may build up in the blood vessels and cause damage. For decades, it has been recommended to limit the amount of cholesterol in your diet. However, recent evidence suggests cholesterol from food does not raise blood cholesterol levels as much as previously thought. 

Guidelines for Decreasing Fat Intake

  • Increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Bake, broil, or grill foods instead of frying.
  • Choose low-fat meats, like chicken, fish, turkey, lean pork and lean beef (meat without visible fat and without skin).
  • Limit high-fat meats, like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, bologna and fried meat.
  • Use fruits as dessert instead of high-fat desserts, like ice cream, cake and cookies.
  • Limit amounts of added fat, like margarine, butter, oil, salad dressing and mayonnaise.
  • Use low-fat or fat-free products, like milk, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese and ice cream.

For quizzes, screenings, videos and articles on heart disease, from prevention through management:

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  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

  • video-img

    Drs. Voelker and Lobosky honored with 2014 Physician Legacy Award

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