Meals and food
Eating healthy foods will help you recover and reduce your risk of more heart problems.
Healthy eating is easier than you think. You can usually find all the foods you need at your local supermarket. You just need to know what foods to buy to make healthier meals. Eating a diet low in salt and saturated fat is important if you've had a heart attack.
Healthy eating goals
- Eat vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds every day.
- Choose healthier fats and oils.
- Aim for two to three serves of fish and seafood per week.
- Limit fried or baked foods, especially chips, biscuits, cakes and other baked cereal products.
- Avoid adding salt to food. Choose ‘no added salt’, ‘low-salt’ or ‘salt reduced’ foods where possible.
- Drink mainly water. Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks.
What to eat after a heart attack
- Eat plenty of vegetables (aim for five serves every day) and fresh fruit (aim for two serves every day).
- Choose wholegrain types of breads, cereal, pasta, rice and noodles.
- Select lean meat (meat trimmed of fat and poultry without skin). Limit processed meats, including sausages, and deli meats, such as salami.
- Have two to three serves (150 g) of fish and seafood every week (fresh, frozen or canned).
- Include legumes in at least two meals a week (e.g. lentils, split peas, dried or canned beans like four bean mix, or baked beans).
- Eat up to six eggs every week.
- Limit take-away foods (e.g. pastries, pies, pizza, hot chips, fried fish, hamburgers).
- Limit salty, fatty and sugary snack foods (e.g. crisps, cakes, biscuits, lollies and chocolate).
- Choose reduced fat milk, yoghurt, cheese or calcium alternatives.
- Choose healthier fats and oils for cooking, spreads, dressings and mayonnaises. Some suitable choices include canola, sunflower, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils.
- Snack on plain, unsalted nuts.
- Drink mainly water, and avoid sugar sweetened drinks. Choose caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea in moderation.
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Talk to your doctor or dietitian about the diet that is best for you.
If you have coronary heart disease, you need to be careful about the foods you eat.
It’s important to change the types of fat you eat. Eating too much unhealthy saturated and trans fats can increase high cholesterol. Choosing foods with healthier fats can help you lower your cholesterol and avoid more heart problems.
How eat less unhealthy fats and more healthier fats
- Eat fewer bought cakes, biscuits and pastries. Limit take-away food like hamburgers, pizza and hot chips.
- Choose lean cuts of meat or trim all the fat you can see. Remove skin from chicken.
- Avoid processed meat (e.g. sausages and salami).
- Eat fish instead of meat 2–3 times a week, and choose legume or bean-based meals twice a week.
- Include nuts and seeds in your diet regularly.
- Choose reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- When you’re cooking or preparing food, use healthier oils like olive and canola, and margarine spreads and dressings made from them, instead of butter or palm oil.
Salt is hidden in lots of food. The amount of salt you eat should be less than 4 g per day. That’s less than a teaspoon. Salt holds fluid in your body. If you eat too much salt, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure.
Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. It’s the sodium that can be bad for your health, and is listed on food packages.
Foods with high-salt levels include:
- commercially baked products like biscuits, pastries, pies and some breads
- processed meat, such as ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, tinned meat, corned meat and pies
- take-away foods, such as hamburgers, pizza, hot chips, noodles, potato chips, many Asian foods, pasta and fried chicken
- packaged foods, such as tinned and instant soup, fish in brine and instant noodles
- condiments and sauces like packet seasoning, stock cubes, soy sauce and tomato sauce
- snack foods like salted nuts, olives and dips
How to reduce your salt intake
- Make fresh foods the main part of your diet – include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, plain meat, poultry and fish, reduced fat dairy, plain unsalted nuts and legumes.
- Choose foods normally processed without salt.
- Check the labels on food you buy for salt content. Choose ‘no added salt’, ‘low salt’ or ‘salt reduced’ foods where possible.
- Aim for foods with less than 400 mg of sodium per 100 g. Foods with less than 120 mg of sodium per 100g are considered low in salt.
- Avoid adding salt during cooking, and at the table. Instead use lemon juice, garlic, herbs and spices to add flavour.
- Avoid high-salt packaged foods, salty snacks and salty take-away foods.
Too much alcohol increases your risk of more heart problems.
Drinking less alcohol can substantially lower your blood pressure.
Too much drinking increases your risk of high blood pressure. It also increases your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and many other problems.
Use the alcohol action plan to set goals for drinking less alcohol.
Need to eat better?
Improve your diet step by step using this action plan designed for heart attack survivors.