Taking Action to Manage Your Nutrition

You can significantly improve your cardiovascular health by following a heart-healthy diet, as the following nutritional recommendations and their effects show:

  • If you consume 5 to 10 grams of fibre each day, you can reduce your total cholesterol by 3%.
  • Decreasing your intake of fats and cholesterol reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease through the lowering of LDL, or “lousy,” cholesterol.
  • Consuming omega-3 fats is associated with a reduced risk of death from coronary artery disease. Omega-3s exert a protective cardiovascular effect by reducing triglycerides, inhibiting clot formation, and reducing blood pressure.
  • Soluble fibre in your diet reduces LDL cholesterol levels beyond those achievable by a diet low in saturated and trans fats. Also, more fibre in your diet can lead to a decrease in blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and blood clots.
  • Diets high in whole grains and fibre are associated with improved nutrition overall and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • When you maintain a low-sodium to perform and regulate certain functions of the body, such as blood pressure and muscle and nerve function} diet, you can keep hypertension at bay, or you can lower your blood pressure if you have elevated levels.
  • Each fruit or vegetable you eat is associated with a 4% reduction in the risk for a coronary event.
  • If you get more omega-3s and less saturated fat, you can increase your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels.
  • You can reduce your triglycerides, another form of fat in the body, by maintaining a diet low in sugar and alcohol.

Prevention and Management Strategies

Any eating plan that puts you on the road to good health is also one that is heart healthy. Following a heart-smart eating plan not only protects your cardiovascular health but also promotes overall health and the control of numerous risk factors that affect a variety of chronic conditions and diseases. When you eat a wide variety of nutrient dense foods and cut out less healthy choices, you are well on your way to living a long and vital life.

When you follow a heart-smart eating plan, you should strive to:

  • Limit saturated and trans fats
  • Include healthy fats and oils
  • Increase vegetables, fruit, fibre, and whole grains
  • Reduce salt and sugar
  • Choose smaller servings (small instead of a large potato, ¾ cup of rice instead of 1 cup, 4 oz chicken breast instead of 6 or 8 oz)
  • Consider the calorie content
  • Adjust energy intake to maintain an ideal body weight
  • Eat a variety of foods from each food group every day
  • Eat three small meals daily with small snacks, instead of one or two large meals

Portion Size Versus Serving Size


Portion size is the total amount of food consumed for one meal or snack. When you start a weight-loss program or an eating plan to reduce or control your blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol, it is important to understand how much you should eat for a given meal or snack. Portions people serve at home and in restaurants are typically three to four times larger than recommended.

Serving size is the standard amount of a particular food recommended by Canada’s Food Guide. For example, a typical restaurant portion of pasta is a three-cup serving. According to Canada’s Food Guide, this is equivalent to six servings of grains. Understanding recommended servings is key to portion control.

Reading the Nutrition Label

All prepackaged foods have a nutrition label that provides information about the product.

If you want to know the nutritional value of the food you’re about to buy, read the nutrition label. When seeking out heart-healthy products, look for labels that indicate low levels of saturated and total fat (3 g or less), cholesterol (20 mg or less), sodium (140 mg or less), and sugar, but higher amounts of fibre and vitamins and minerals.

Step 1 – Look at the Serving Size

Nutrition facts are based on a specific quantity of food. Always compare the serving size on the package to the amount that you actually eat. The label will list the nutrients according to the serving, not the package.

Step 2 – Look at the Nutrients and the Percent of Daily Value (% DV)

The percent of daily value puts nutrients on a scale from 0% to 100%. You need a certain recommended daily level of each nutrient. This scale tells you what percentage of your daily value a nutrient provides, usually in terms of a single serving. For example, if the label shows 10% for calcium, you’re getting 10% of your daily calcium from a single serving. The percent of daily value is based on a 2,000 calorie eating plan. You can make these assumptions about the percent of daily value on labels:

  • 5% or less is a small amount
  • 15% or more is a large amount
  • Consume higher % DV of fibre, vitamin A, calcium, and iron
  • Consume smaller % DV of fat, saturated and trans fat, and sodium

Step 3 – Look at the Ingredient List

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This establishes the general makeup of the product. When reading the ingredient list, be sure to choose foods with labels that put:

  • Salt or sodium and fat near the bottom
  • High-fibre ingredients and whole grains (whole wheat, oats, rye, millet, quinoa, barley) at the beginning
  • Sugar (honey, molasses, dextrin, syrup) last


Tips for Eating More Fruit and Vegetables

(Aim to fill ½ of your plate)

If all of your fruit and vegetables are the same colour Try to include fruit and vegetables that are a variety of colours: red, orange, yellow
If you’re having a hard time including fruit and vegetables Try to include fruit and vegetables at every meal — for example, berries for breakfast, veggie sticks for lunch, salad for supper
If you’re finding it too time consuming to prepare fruit and vegetables Try frozen fruit or vegetables
If you’re eating the same fruit and vegetables every day Try a new fruit or vegetable once a week

Choose brightly coloured vegetables and fruit at all meals.

Eat at least two cups of vegetables and two to four fruits every day. The brighter the colour, the better.

Choose more dark green, red, and orange fruits and vegetables daily in order to ensure adequate consumption of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, for example:

  • Tomatoes
  • Red, yellow, and green peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Red cabbage
  • Apricots
  • Oranges
  • Mangoes
  • Berries
  • Dried fruit
  • Kiwis
  • Melons

Tips for Eating Healthy Meat and Alternatives

(Aim to fill ½ of your plate)

If you’re eating poultry with the skin on Remove the skin before eating
If you’re eating red meat more than once or twice a week Choose lean cuts of pork, poultry, and fish more often, or try a vegetarian meal once a week
If you’re avoiding fish Choose fresh, frozen, or canned fish two to four times/week or consider an omega-3 supplement
If you’re using deli meats for sandwiches Try cooking extra meat the night before for sandwiches or use alternatives such as tuna, salmon, or egg

Choose lean cuts of meat, poultry, and fish more often. Try a vegetarian meal once or twice a week. Limit whole eggs to two to three per week.

  • Always choose lean cuts of meat and trim away all visible fat
  • Avoid deep-fried batter-coated fish
  • A few times a week, include meatless meals, such as vegetarian chili, burritos with beans, split pea or lentil soup, hummus, meatless curries, baked beans, tofu, soy burgers, and vegetarian meat alternatives
  • Choose omega-3 eggs more often than regular eggs
  • Healthy cooking methods include baking, broiling, stir frying, steaming, roasting, poaching, grilling, and barbecuing
  • Choose rarely: salami, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, or deli meats, such as bologna

Tips for Eating Healthy Dairy Products

If you’re choosing homogenized or 2% milk Choose skim or 1% milk instead
If you’re eating regular yogourt Choose yogourt with 1% M.F. (milk fat) or less
If you’re eating ice cream Choose frozen yogourt or ice milk.
If you’re eating regular cheese Try low-fat cheese with 15% M.F (milk fat) or less

Choose low-fat dairy products more often.

  • Choose rarely: regular milk products, such as whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, or cream cheese

Tips for Using Healthy Fats and Oils

If you’re deep-frying or pan-frying foods Try baking, broiling, steaming, stir-frying, or grilling instead
If you’re using hard fats, such as butter or lard, for cooking Instead try using liquid fats, such as the following oils: olive, canola, safflower, sesame, and corn oil
if you’re using mayonnaise, salad dressings, or sour cream Try the low-fat version, and make your own salad dressings with oil and vinegar
If you eat nuts as a snack Limit your portion size to 2 tbsp (a handful)
If you use butter Try non-hydrogenated margarine instead

Choose unsaturated fats more often. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.

  • Choose from among the following oils: olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, sesame, walnut, and peanut
  • Choose natural nut butters, such as: peanut, almond, and hazelnut
  • Enjoy nuts and seeds as an accent to food, for example, one tbsp on top of salads or stir-fries
  • Choose rarely: any deep-fried foods, including snack foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oils
  • Read the nutrition labels to compare and choose foods with fewer saturated and trans fats
  • Choose oils such as canola and olive and non-hydrogenated margarines instead of animal, hydrogenated, and trans fats. Reduce portions of meat, and choose lower-fat milk products

Tips for Consuming Less Salt

If you buy packaged frozen meals Read the Nutrition Facts table and choose the product with the lowest % Daily Value for sodium (try for less than 10%)
If you’re thinking of going out for dinner for the third time this week Make a simple dinner at home and try scrambled eggs with vegetables and toast instead
If you’re using canned peas or beans Rinse and drain them first
If you’re using deli meat for sandwiches Use meat alternatives, such as egg or tuna for filling
If you add salt when you cook Try using herbs and spices or garlic when cooking instead

Read the food label and choose foods that have less than 200 mg or 10% DV per serving.

  • Use fresh or dried herbs, unsalted spices, lemon juice, and flavoured vinegars to boost flavour during food preparation
  • Try Mrs. Dash or McCormick No Salt Added seasoning blends
  • Reduce or limit salt in cooking and avoid adding salt at the table
  • Prepare meals using fresh, unprocessed ingredients
  • Choose rarely: processed foods, such as deli meats, canned/packaged soups, pickles, soy sauce, salted snack foods, commercial coatings for meats, frozen dinners, vegetable juices, canned vegetables, or fast foods
  • Read the nutrition labels, compare similar items, and choose foods with less sodium


Limit alcohol to a maximum of two servings a day for men and one serving a day for women. The recommended single-serving measures for alcohol are:

  • Liquor 45 ml (1.5 oz)
  • Wine 125 ml (4 oz)
  • Beer 355 ml (12 oz)