How Can I Make My Meal More Heart Healthy?

By Rachael Derr, RD

This is such a timely question right now during Heart Health Month!  These tips can help you make your restaurant meals work for you and your heart without giving up the good food you love at restaurants:

Focus on fruits and veggies.

  • Fruits and vegetables are packed with heart-healthy fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Try opting for the vegetarian meal next time you are dining out or requesting a side of fruit or steamed veggies with your meal.

Make half (or more) of your daily grains choices whole grains.

  • Packed with fiber, whole grains can help reduce cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease. They also provide a feeling of fullness, which can help lower calorie intake. Maintaining a healthy weight has been shown to help improve heart health.
  • Examples of whole grain choices to look for at restaurants include: 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat or corn tortillas, whole wheat pasta, wild rice, bulgur, bran cereal and oatmeal.

Stick to low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

  • You can also opt for dairy-free alternatives like almond milk or soy milk (choose the unsweetened varieties). This allows you to take in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D & calcium, without the negative impact of extra saturated fat.

Eat fish – twice a week.

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart health by lowering triglyceride levels and slowing the growth rate of plaque build-up in your arteries.

Choose lean protein sources.

  • These include white meat poultry with skin removed, red meat without or with very little white fat marbling such as sirloin, lean ground beef, ground turkey, fish, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and tofu.

Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugar.

  • Added sugar, found in soda and other processed sweetened foods, can contribute to obesity, which has a negative impact on your heart.
  • When dining out, stick with water, unsweetened iced tea, 100% fruit juice or low-fat milk for your beverage choices.
  • When it comes to dessert, keep your portions very small OR try swapping in fruit for a sweet note at the end of a meal.

Watch your sodium intake!

  • When dining out, request that your meal be prepared with no added salt.
  • Limit or avoid menu items that are typically high sodium culprits such as soups and pickled, brined, marinated and smoked choices.
  • Sauces and dressings can be very high in sodium, as well – ask for these on the side so you can determine how much to use as you enjoy your meal.
  • Let Healthy Dining’s registered dietitians do the work for you.  Look for the Sodium Savvy menu items featured on!

Dining out with your heart health in mind can be a delicious part of your healthy lifestyle when you know what to look for on the restaurant menu.  Sodium Savvy choices like these combine a variety of heart-healthy ingredients into one tempting menu choice: