Healthy Heart Meals

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. There are many factors that effect our risk of heart disease. One of these factors is our cholesterol level. People with a high cholesterol level are at greater risk for heart disease than people with a lower cholesterol level. There are several ways we can control our cholesterol level. One way we control it is by making healthy choices in the food we eat.

Research has shown that meals high in fiber and low in fat may help reduce our risk of heart disease. Choosing food carefully can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fruits and vegetables are healthy choices. Fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fiber and low in fat. The Food Guide Pyramid tells us to eat 2 to 4 servings of fruit and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables each day. This is a good place to start. Plan to eat at least two servings of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal.

Whole grain breads and cereals are also good choice. Whole wheat bread, brown rice and oatmeal are some examples of whole grain foods that are high in fiber and low in fat. The Food Guide Pyramid recommends 6 to 11 servings from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group each day. Try to be sure that at least three servings from this group are whole grains.

We need 2 to 3 servings of foods from the milk, dairy, and yogurt group each day. Also, we need to eat 2 to 3 daily servings of the meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dry beans, and nuts group. Many foods in these groups are high in fat and do not have fiber. Choose foods from these groups that are low in fat. Skim milk and lowfat yogurts are good choice. Chicken with the skin removed is lower in fat than other meats. Meats that are baked or broiled are lower in fat than fried foods.

Salad dressing and spreads such as butter, cream cheese, and peanut butter are high in fat. These should be avoided or used sparingly. Many foods that are eaten as snacks are high in fat and low in fiber. Select snacks carefully. Lowfat cheese or yogurt, canned or fresh fruit, raw vegetables, or whole grain crackers are good choices.

Here is a sample menu to get you started in planning healthy meals to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Heart Healthy Sample Menu


  • Oatmeal with skim milk
  • Orange juice
  • Whole wheat toast with low fat margarine
  • Skim milk


  • Vegetable soup
  • Whole wheat bread, thin sliced turkey sandwich
  • Carrot sticks
  • Medium apple
  • Skim milk


  • Broiled chicken breast
  • Brown rice
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Green salad with lowfat dressing
  • Dinner roll with lowfat margarine
  • Lowfat frozen yogurt


  • Grapes and whole wheat crackers

Now start your planning for heart healthy meals today.

Written by Barbara Farner, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Matteson Extension Center.

Edited by Katherine J. Reuter, Consumer and Family Economics Educator, Countryside Extension Center.


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