How to Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet Without Feeling Deprived

Updated on November 16, 2018
Dreamworker profile image

Dreamworker believes that every human being deserves the right to be able to live to his or her full potential.

When my husband had a bad health scare awhile back, we wondered how we ever were going to adapt to a low salt, low fat diet without feeling deprived.

In fact, we really thought we wouldn’t be able to do so, and if this was the case, life for him could end quickly.

After doing a great deal of research and experimentation, I realized that although we would have to give up eating some of the foods we had eaten in the past, there were many products on the market that would help us to eat well without feeling that we were sacrificing much.

Here is what we learned and what we did to be able to eat comfortably.

Tips to help people comfortably eat the types of foods that will keep them heart healthy.
Tips to help people comfortably eat the types of foods that will keep them heart healthy. | Source

Education Is Key

Before doing anything, we had to educate ourselves about the things we could eat or should not eat and also how to limit our intake of sugar,sodium and fat.

The biggest thing that we had to remember is that it takes very little salt, to max out our save sodium eating levels.

We were shocked to learn that only one level teaspoon equals 2300 MG, which is the most any person is supposed to ingest in a day and further that this included any sodium already in the food itself!

Sodium, therefore, was our biggest problem. This is because the rules for limiting fat and sugar intake are quite clear.

For example, we learned that simply staying a way from fried foods and sweets and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables plus lean meats, poultry and fish could help us easily to control the amount of fat in our diet.

The problem was that the very things we had to limit were the same ones we loved to eat and had eaten our entire lives!

Thus, we realized early on that we would have to find substitutes and additives that would make what we ate taste good/

A book that really helped us to do this was Eat This Not That. It showed us exactly what was in various foods and how we could avoid problems by using similar but different ones.

For example:

  • whole milk has 3.5% fat whereas skim milk only has 0.2 % fat,
  • ice cream has 7 g of fat but low fat frozen yogurt has only 3 g
  • one slice of cheddar cheese has 174 mg of sodium, whereas one slice of low sodium cheddar cheese has 55 mg.

We use this book almost like a food bible to help us stay on track, and doing so makes eating much more pleasurable and easy!

Although the substitutes do vary in taste from the real thing, they’re not bad and over time, you get used to eating them.

However, using it is not the only thing you can do to stick to your heart healthy diet.

This sandwich is loaded with sodium and fat and is a bad choice for people who want to eat heart healthy good.
This sandwich is loaded with sodium and fat and is a bad choice for people who want to eat heart healthy good. | Source

Limit Restaurant Food

Without realizing it, we had been eating out far too often. Most of the time we ate fast food, but about once a week would dine in regular restaurants.

In fast food places we stuck to smaller burgers, small bags of fries and salads when dining in fast food places, but got into the habit of topping these meals off with ice cream.

In regular restaurants we mostly ate pasta, salads, soups and sandwiches but tended to add fried potatoes to certain meals.

Because we omitted salad dressings and sodas and opted for smaller portions, we thought we were eating healthy.

In a way we were, because we stayed away from greasy foods, red meat, soft drinks, salad dressings and desserts.

It was only after we had our scare that we found out that nothing we were eating in those places was healthy, even the salads because everything was loaded with MSG, salt and fat.

For example,

at McDonald’s

  • a small Caesar Side Salad has 400mg of sodium and 8 grams of fat
  • a hamburger has 510 mg of sodium and 8 grams of fat and
  • a hot fudge sundae has 230 mg of sodium and 7 grams of fat and

at Olive Garden

  • a house salad with dressing has 770 mg of sodium and 10 grams of fat
  • spaghetti with meat sauce has 1020 mg of sodium and 22 grams of fat and
  • cheese ravioli with marinara has 2140 mg of sodium and 39 grams of fat.

Eliminate MSG

We also learned that many restaurants use MSG (monosodium glutamate) to extend the life of foods and reduce the amount of sodium needed to retain flavor. MSG has 40% less of the sodium than salt.

It has been used for years in Chinese food, processed foods, soups and canned vegetables, but there have been many reports of people who have having had problems after eating such as heart palpitations, headaches, flushing and other health issues.

So while it may seem to be helpful in a low sodium diet, we decided that the potential problems it can cause are not worth the risks.

For example, if you already have an Atrial Fibrillation problem, you certainly don’t want to eat something that may give you heart palpitations!

Read and Understand Labels

Another piece of information we found was that just about anything that comes in a can, bag or a box likely is loaded with sodium or fat.

However, we learned that this does not apply to every food. By reading labels closely to see what the ingredients were, we were able to separate the good from the bad.

However, some of the information was truly shocking. For example

  • a half cup of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup contains 850 mg of sodium,
  • a half cup of Bush’s Baked Beans contains 550 mg of sodium and
  • one cup of canned white potatoes has 324 mg of sodium.

Many high sodium products have reduced sodium counterparts, but you can’t count on what is written on the front of the package. You still have to read the nutritional details listed on the back to know exactly what is in them., You should also be aware that the lack of sodium or fat in some products greatly reduces the flavor.

If you do a Google search for “How much sodium (or fat) is there in ___________” you can quickly find credible information about food products.

Good Products to Use

There are some products that do taste good and have very little sodium or fat in them such as

Here are some things you can eat that taste good and are safe:

  • baked sweet potato with sugar and cinnamon,
  • Clancy’s Lightly Salted Potato Chips,
  • Clancy’s Lightly Salted Popcorn,
  • Heinz low sodium ketchup,
  • low sodium salsa,
  • low sodium spaghetti sauce,
  • canned chunk pineapple packed in juice,
  • pure maple syrup,
  • fresh or frozen fruit,
  • most fresh or frozen vegetables,
  • fresh or frozen lean meats and poultry,
  • smoothie made with low fat yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, ice and artificial sweetener,
  • eggs, scrambled or poached (never fried),
  • low sodium wheat bread,
  • oatmeal
  • bran cereal,
  • rice (flavored with ketchup or Balsamic Vinegar),
  • potatoes cut into French fries, seasoned with Parmesan Cheese and cooked in microwave,
  • pasta,
  • low fat low sodium chocolate frozen yogurt,
  • skim milk and
  • chocolate syrup.

You can find more foods here.

You can use some of the above products to enhance the flavor less tasty foods.

For example, you can’t put salt in scrambled eggs, but you can use low sodium ketchup or salsa to make them taste good.

However, you want to make sure that the nutritional ingredients support the claims on the front of the food product container!

The Bottom Line

There is no question that you will no longer be able to eat many of the foods you like. However you’ll be able to find substitutes for most of them.

If you decide to splurge, do so carefully so that you do not shock your system.

The important thing to remember is that you are trying to keep yourself healthy and alive while still being able to enjoy many foods

Doing this will help you to avoid a heart attack or stroke, so the minor sacrifices you will have to make will be worthwhile..

The good news is that you likely will lose some weight by eating this way, which is also good for your health.

Many people eat low sodium, low fat diets without feeling deprived, and if you follow the guidelines in this article, you'll feel the same way.

Good Luck!

Do you think these tips will help you to eat a healthy diet?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Sondra Rochelle

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    • Dreamworker profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra Rochelle 

      8 weeks ago from USA

      Dred Cuan: Absolutely. That's why I wrote this article!

    • dredcuan profile image

      Dred Cuan 

      8 weeks ago from California

      Many people think that eating healthy is a way of sacrificing your favorite foods. It shouldn't be the case. There are alternative ingredients available in the market that can transform one sinful dish into a healthy dish.

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