11 tips to a healthier heart
Dietician Sarah Noone from Irish Heart, one of Bank of Ireland’s charity partners, shares her top tips for a healthier heart.
3 MIN READ
After all the indulgence of the party season, January is the month of resolutions.
Many of these focus on weight and nutrition, which is good news for heart health, as increased physical activity and achieving a healthy weight can cut your chances of developing heart disease and stroke.
Finding diets that promise to get you trim and heart healthy in a flash isn’t exactly hard in January.
But if you’re aiming not to be back at square one again this time next year, going the diet route may not be the answer.
Although you’ll probably lose weight initially, many diets are difficult to maintain. Studies show that many people who follow them put the lost weight back on again within a year or so.
Instead, we know small changes add up and can make a huge difference over time.
So why not start, today, with one of our 11 top tips to eat your way to a healthier heart this year:
Tip 1: Never skip breakfast
The morning rush can make it difficult to make time for breakfast with many of us not eating breakfast everyday!
Keep breakfast simple throughout the week; porridge topped with some chopped fruit, wholegrain varieties of cereal with reduced fat milk or reduced fat natural yogurt with fruit are all good options.
Grab-and-go options can work well too well too – a simple glass of water and a piece of fruit is a good start to the day!
Even the most reluctant breakfasters find that they can manage this!
Tip 2: Rethink the drink
After the Christmas period, how many of us try to cut back on the alcohol?
Alcohol is high in sugar and calories, and drinking more than the recommended amount can be harmful to your heart.
Did you know a bottle of wine has 550 calories which is about the same as a burger and fries!
So why not start by trying to reduce the number of days a week you drink alcohol?
Tip 3: Load up on fruit and veggies
If you find this difficult, why not try keeping chopped fruit and veg on hand as a snack, throwing some frozen vegetables in your stews and curries, adding some salad into your lunchtime sandwich or adding a handful of dried or fresh fruit to your breakfast cereal.
Recommendations are 5-7 portions of fruit and veg every day.
Tip 4: Drink more water
Did you know we can mistake thirst for hunger?
This means you might reach for some snacky foods when your body really needs fluid!
So, I pose this challenge to you: Whenever you feel hungry, try first drinking a glass of water.
Don’t like plain water? Add a few cucumber slices, lime, lemon or strawberries for an extra kick.
Tip 5: Go for the good fats
Swap bad fats for good fats.
This means choosing less butter, processed meats and full fat products and swapping for heart-healthy fats like nuts, seeds and oily fish.
These changes will mean a healthier cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Tip 6: Ask are my portions too big?
Our perception of what is a ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ portion can be quite different from what’s recommended.
Did you know the average dinner plate in the 1960s was 9 inches compared to the average dinner plate today which is 12 inches?
Compare your portions to the Food Pyramid. What changes can you make?
Tip 7: Shake the salt
There is a proven link between a high salt diet and high blood pressure.
Did you know eighty per cent of the salt we eat is hidden in processed foods?
To cut your risk of stroke and heart disease swap out salt and add black pepper, lemon juice, herbs and spices.
Tip 8: Plan your meals for the week ahead
Write a shopping list and stick to it — and never ever shop when you’re hungry!
Tip 9: Keep a supply of healthier snack options to hand
Snacks can include; chopped fruit, low-fat natural yogurt, unsalted nuts or seeds, vegetable sticks, unsalted popcorn, rice cakes or oatcakes with reduced-fat hummus.
Remember – snacking is simply meant to keep your hunger at bay, it is not a meal in itself!
Tip 10: Boost your fish intake
We all could do with eating more fish.
Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and mackerel have been shown to lower the risk of irregular heart beat and a build-up of plaque in arteries.
We should all be eating two portions of fish a week, with one portion made up of oily fish.
Tip 11: Ditch the Diets
Don’t cut out whole food groups in a bid to lose weight and get trim quickly.
A heart healthy diet needs balance, so make sure you eat properly.
Losing weight too quickly can leave you tired and hungry, so you give up, regaining the weight as quickly as it came off!
Keep your focus on the habits you want to change rather than on an ‘all or nothing’ approach.
Find out more
For more tips on healthy eating from Irish Heart, check out the advice on their website.