Preventing heart disease: nutrition at home and out

In order to prevent heart disease, nutrition is essential. The key to proper nutrition is balance; what you eat, how much you eat, and yes, where you eat it. Certain people will have you believe that restaurants, especially fast food chains, are the devil (cough, Morgan Spurlock, cough). Generalizations, however, are fallacious. Saying that eating out is tantamount to poor heart-healthy nutrition would be like saying that home cooking is the remedy for heart disease. Neither is necessarily true and it all depends on your choices. For example, it would be wise to avoid the Heart Attack Grill, but not so much to accept an invitation to dine at Paula Deen’s house (dated jokes are calorie and fat-free).

Home Cooking






Read heart-healthy cookbooks.

Cook ‘choice’ or ‘select’ (beef), ‘loin’ and ‘round’ (pork), and leaner, light meat (poultry) meat.

Make salad with reduced-, low-, or no-fat dressings.

Use little or no salt.

Ground fresh herbs.

Dried herbs like thyme, rosemary and marjoram (sparingly).

Dry mustard for condiment.

Vinegar or citrus juice to enhance flavors.

Fresh hot peppers.

Fried mushrooms, tomatoes, chili peppers, cherries, cranberries and currants.

Liquid vegetable oils or nonfat cooking sprays.

Canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, soybean and sunflower oil are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol but have 120 calories/tbsp.

Coconut, palm and palm kernel oil don’t contain cholesterol but are high in saturated fats.

Stir-frying, roasting, grilling and broiling, baking, poaching, sautéing, and steaming are low-fat alternatives to frying.





1 cup of whole milk

1 cup of fat-free or low-fat milk + 1 tbsp of liquid vegetable oil

1 cup of heavy cream

1 cup of evaporated skim milk or ½ cup of low-fat yogurt and ½ cup of plain low-fat unsalted cottage cheese

Sour cream

Low-fat unsalted cottage cheese + low-fat or fat-free yogurt; fat-free sour cream

Cream cheese

4 tbsp of soft, low saturated fat and trans fat-free margarine blended w/ 1 cup of dry unsalted low-fat cottage cheese

1 tbsp of butter

1 tbsp of soft, low saturated fat and trans fat-free margarine, or ¾ tbsp of liquid vegetable oil

1 egg

2 egg whites

1 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate

3 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder + 1 tbsp of vegetable oil or soft margarine




Fried tortilla chips

Baked tortilla chips

Regular potato or corn chips

Pretzels or low-fat potato chips

High fat cookies or crackers

Fat-free or low-fat cookies, crackers

Regular baked goods

Baked goods made with unsaturated oil or soft margarines, egg whites or egg substitutes, and fat-free milk

Devil’s food cake

Angel food cake

Ice cream bars

Frozen fruit bars

Whole milk pudding

Fat-free or low-fat milk pudding


Bagel or toast






-        Apples and breadsticks

-        Carrot and celery sticks

-        Green pepper sticks

-        Zucchini circles

-        Radishes

-        Broccoli spears

-        Cauliflower

-        Unsalted rice cakes

-        Unsalted sunflower seeds

-        Whole-grain breads or toast

-        Cherry or grape tomatoes

-        Low-fat or fat-free cheese

-        Plain, low-fat, or fat-free yogurt

-        Bagels

-        Unsalted almonds, walnuts, other nuts

-        Fat-free milk

-        Unsweetened juices

-        Low-sodium juices

-        Low-sodium tomato or mixed vegetable juice

-        Water


-        Unsweetened canned fruit

-        Thin slice of angel food cake

-        Raisins

-        Dried fruit gelatin

-        Frozen bananas

-        Frozen grapes

-        Fresh fruit

-        Low-fat or fat-free unsweetened fruit yogurt



Dining out not only provides you with a break from home cooking, but it can also present you with many healthy alternatives as long as you’re able to navigate around calories, sodium, saturated fat, and other risk factors for heart disease. Nutrition is possible when dining out provided that certain standards are met, such as the following:

  Heart-healthy requirements


Total fat

Saturated fat


Trans fat


Beneficial nutrients

700 calories or less/entire meal.

3g or less/100g, 30% or less calories, and 26g/entire meal.

1g or less/100g, less than 10% calories, and 5g or less/entire meal.

20mg or less cholesterol/100g, and 105mg or less/entire meal.

Less than 0.5g/entire meal.

800mg or less sodium/ entire meal.

10% or more of the daily value of one of the following/entire meal: vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, dietary fiber, or protein.


Eating healthily is not about depriving yourself; you can even indulge in fast food if you do your homework and make smart choices.

 Dining out

Picking a restaurant

Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets and specials.

Whenever possible decide what you’ll eat before going into the restaurant.


Fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, buttered, creamed or stuffed are high in fat and calories, as opposed to steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached or roasted foods.  

Feel free to ask what’s in a meal and how it is prepared.

Order seafood, chicken or lean meat entrees; remove all visible fat from meat and ask to have skin removed from chicken.

Ask what the healthiest choices are.


Avoid cocktails, appetizers, bread and butter and other extras.

Monitor consumption of butter, cream cheese, salad dressings, sauces and gravies by asking for them to be served on the side.

At salad bars favor fresh greens, raw vegetables, fresh fruits, garbanzo beans and reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free dressings over cheeses, marinated salads, pasta salads and fruit salads with whipped cream.

Choose fresh fruit, fruit ice, sherbet, gelatin and angel food cake desserts.

If available, order smaller portions or healthier substitutes.

Fast food

Opt for fast food restaurants that offer grilled chicken, salads, low-fat milk, and fruit.

Avoid super-sizing.


Food item








Whole-grain waffle w/fruit

Fried eggs


Omelet or scrambled eggs w/egg substitutes or egg whites

Bacon or sausage


Lean ham or Canadian bacon

Croissant, pastry, muffin


Whole-wheat bagel w/low-fat cream cheese






Papadum or papad



Chicken or beef tikka, or chicken or beef tandori

Coconut milk or cream curries


Vegetable or dal-based curries, shish kabob, or tandori chicken or fish



Gobhi matar tamatar

Saaq paneer


Matar pulao

Sauce rice dishes


Fragrant steamed rice

Fried or stuffed breads


Chapatti, or naan




Fried crawfish or shrimp


Boiled crawfish or shrimp

Gumbo, etouffe and roux sauces


Creole and jambalaya dishes

Fried seafood


Boiled or grilled seafood

Fried shrimp pr oyster Po’ Boy sandwiches


Turkey or roast beef Po’ Boy sandwiches

Dirty rice


White rice

Red beans and rice w/sausage


Red beans and rice w/o sausage




Fried calamari


Roasted peppers or minestrone soup

Cheese or meat-filled pastas or casserole dishes


Pasta primavera or pasta with white or red clam sauce

Past w/butter


Pasta w/marsala sauce or marinara sauce

Scallopine or parmigiana


Marsala and piccata







Egg drop soup


Wonton or hot and sour soup

Egg rolls or fried wontons


Steamed dumplings

Fried entrees


Boiled, broiled, steamed or lightly stir-fried entrees

Fried meat dishes


Dishes w/plenty of vegetables

Cashew and peanut dishes


Water chestnut dishes

Fried rice


Steamed rice

Lobster sauce, oyster bean and soy sauce


Sweet and sour sauce, plum or duck sauce




Vegetable tempura


Steamed vegetables

Shrimp tempura


Grilled shrimp or vegetable sushi



Nabemono, yosenabe, shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, or su udon

Oyako domburi


Sumashi wan

Chawan mushi


Grilled chicken or beef teriyaki




Flour tortillas


Corn tortillas



Grilled shrimp



Grilled fish or chicken breast

Refried beans


Frijoles a la charra, or borracho beans and Spanish rice

Full-fat sour cream and cheese


Sala, pico de gallo, cilantro, jalapeño peppers



Chicken fajitas

Chalupas and tacos


Taco salad or fajita salad



Chicken or beef enchiladas w/red sauce




Olive, caper, or anchovy appetizers


Steamed mussels or salad



Steamed mussels

French onion soup


Mixed green salad w/vinaigrette dressing



French bread

Hollandaise, Mornay, Béchamel or Béarnaise sauce


Bordelaise or other wine-based sauce

Creamy "au gratin" potato


Lightly sauteed, crisp vegetables

Chocolate mousse


Fat-free chocolate pudding

Crème caramel


Peaches in wine




Fried spring rolls


Fresh spring rolls

Coconut milk dishes


Stir-fried dishes

Tom ka gai


Tom yam goong

Gaeng keow wan gai


Nuea pad prik

Gaeng ped gai


Pad Thai

Fried rice


Steamed rice

Gluay kaeg


Khao newo kaew

Coconut ice cream


Fruit ice




Meat-stuffed appetizers


Appetizers w/rice or eggplant

Fried calamari



Baba ganoosh





Roast lamb, shish kabob, couscous or bulgur wheat w/vegetables or chicken

Chawan mushi


Roast lamb, shish kabob, couscous or bulgur wheat w/vegetables or chicken



Chicken pita sandwich










Banh michien voitom


Canh chua tom

Cha gio


Goi cuon

Vit quay


Bo xa lui nuong

Oy Heo xao chua ngot


Ca hap

Ca-ri ga


Ca kho to

Banh dua ca ra men




Family restaurants


Cream soups


Broth-based soups w/plenty of vegetables

Quiche and salad


Soup and salad

Buffalo chicken wings


Peel and eat shrimp

Fried chicken sandwich


Blackened chicken sandwich

Chicken fried steak


Veggie burger

French fries or potatoes and gravy


Baked potato, potatoes w/o gravy, rice w/o gravy, cooked greens w/o salt pork or lard

Creamy coleslaw


Sautéed vegetables or tossed salad

Hot fudge sundae or ice cream


Non-fat yogurt, sherbet or fruit ice


Fast food




Small bagel

Jumbo cheeseburger


Grilled chicken, sliced meats, regular 2 oz hamburger on a bun w/lettuce, tomato and onion

Fried chicken or tacos


Grilled chicken or salad bar

Fried chicken pieces


Chicken fajita pitas

French fries


Baked potato w/vegetables or low-fat or fat-free sour cream topping

Potato chips


Pretzels, baked potato chips



Juice or low-fat or fat free milk or a diet soft drink




Fatty cuts (rib eye, porterhouse, T-bone)


Leaner cuts (London broil, filet mignon, round or flank steak, sirloin tip, tenderloin)

French fried, au gratin or scalloped potatoes


Baked potato or rice

Caesar or marinated salad


Green salad w/dressing on the side

Fried vegetables


Steamed vegetables

Pie and ice cream


Angel food cake or sherbet


Related read: 

Great Nutrition for Heart Disease Prevention