Time and time again we read headlines, see posts, and get told by our heart doctors about all the things we should AVOID. “Don’t eat sugar”, “Avoid caffeine”, “Cut down on alcohol, “Stop eating such big portions of carbs”. It’s like being a school kid again and getting told over and over to be quiet. It’s not that helpful when you are TRYING your best to be healthy but are getting confused about what you ARE allowed. It’s especially important when you have a heart condition to eat well and include the right heart healthy foods. Your heart is undergoing repair, your body is using more energy than usual healing wounds, forming scars, digesting new medications etc and it needs a good amount of fuel every day.
So what SHOULD you be eating?
Through all of my Healthy Hearties programs you will come across the following four components of nutrition again and again, focusing on heart healthy foods that boost energy. I have outlined these key components below with examples of each.
You should aim to eat the following way at least 80-90% of the time (i.e less healthy foods no more than 10-20% of the time). Which means you can enjoy the occasional dessert or treat meal or cake that your friend made. A treat meal doesn’t mean pigging out though, just that you’re still enjoying life!
You should aim to include the following 3 key nutrients at each main meal:
1. First, add 2 handfuls of vegetables
You should aim to have 2 x handfuls of vegetables at each main meal – ideally lots of green/coloured veg. You can always add more if you are hungrier to bulk up the meal.
This may look like a small bowl of vegetables or a full side plate of salad.
2. Next – add a fist size of protein
You need on average 1 x palm size of lean protein at each main meal. This means those with larger hands have a larger portion. Examples include chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, beans, tofu, pork, lean red meat, smoked salmon, kippers, mackerel, lentils.
3. Then, add 1 handful of complex carbohydrate.
More if you are active, less if you aren’t. Aim for rye bread, cous cous, brown rice, quinoa, oats or other starchy carbohydrates that will fill you up and give you a slow release of energy.
4. Then, add some good fats
Around 2 pinches or 1-2 tablespoons of good fats. These include a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (heart healthy), avocado, walnuts, almonds, ground flaxseeds, a small amount of butter. Remember fat contains more calories so check your portion size.
Voila! We have a balanced meal:
Add in a piece or two of fruit as a snack during the day and you’ve got a pretty balanced diet that should give you plenty of energy and provide you with a wide range of nutrients.
What’s your favourite meal that includes veggies, a protein, a complex carbohydrate and some good fats?
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