3 Heart Healthy Eating Habits to Live Well and Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

November 2022

This article is provided by Heart & Stroke.

When it comes to heart health, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease.  Eating habits and food choices can play a big role. In fact, eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. 

80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your life choices and habits, such as eating a heart healthy diet and being physically active!

Let’s review three eating habits recommended by Heart & Stroke that play a role in helping you live well and reduce your risk of heart disease. 

1. Create balance in your diet and on your plate

Heart healthy diets include a variety of foods and a balance of nutrients. Specifically, an eating pattern that is high in fibre, protein, potassium, magnesium, and calcium and lower in saturated fat, sugar, and salt.

How you can do it

  • Take a moment to look at your plate or lunch bag and note the balance of different types of foods – or lack thereof. Do you have mostly carbohydrate (grain-based) foods on your plate like white rice? Or a much higher proportion of protein-based foods and few or no vegetables? Think about what you could add or replace so that you have more balance or variety.
  • Purposefully plan your meals and snacks to include at least 2-3 different types of foods and mix up your food choices throughout the week to add variety. For example, a snack of fresh fruit with yogurt or a dinner of Salmon with broccoli and brown rice.
  • Visualize your plate in three sections; aim for half of the plate to be vegetables, one-quarter whole grains, and one-quarter protein foods. If you are making a mixed dish like a stir-fry or curry, you can do this quick balance check with the raw ingredients.

Why it is important

Different types of foods contain different nutrients, and your body needs a combination of nutrients to stay healthy and improve cardiovascular health.

For more ideas on creating balance in your meals, check out these resources:


2. Brush up on your cooking skills

Fundamental cooking skills can be a huge support in a heart healthy diet; but this doesn’t mean you have to be a culinary genius. Simply preparing (or assembling) your meals at home allows you to have better control over ingredients and food choices, and you can tailor meals to your own preferences. Cooking and eating with others can also play a role in managing stress and tapping into social and emotional benefits of eating that contribute to overall well-being.

How you can do it

  • Plan your at-home meals and have the ingredients on-hand to help reduce meal-time stress and speed up your food preparation time.
  • Choose foods that fit a heart healthy diet like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein from low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, dry beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Don’t overthink it. No matter the level of your cooking skills, there are recipes for you. Find foods that you enjoy and that you can easily prepare.
  • Invite others into the kitchen. Involve your friends and/or family members in the planning, preparing, and eating of meals. 

Why it works:
Preparing meals at home that include a variety of ingredients and fresh foods often results in less reliance on highly processed, pre-prepared foods, and leads to better heart health. Studies also show that families who cook and eat together, tend to eat better!

Get recipes and more heart healthy cooking ideas from Heart & Stroke:


3. Be mindful about the impact of your food choices

According to Health Canada, mindfulness can contribute to your overall health and wellbeing, specifically by helping you stay on track with a heart healthy diet. Mindfulness is about focusing on emotional and physical responses before, during, and after eating without judging yourself. 

How you can do it:

  • Pay attention to how you are feeling, and if emotions are affecting the types of foods you choose. 
  • Be mindful of how you feel after you eat less healthy or highly processed foods, compared to how you feel after you make heart healthy food choices such as vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.  
  • Consider your eating patterns and how they might impact the foods you are choosing. For example, are you skipping meals or waiting a long time between meals and snacks? Are you eating on the run or at your desk?

Why it works:

Being in-tune with your body, your habits, and your environment can help you recognize patterns in your behaviours. It can also help you identify where small changes could set you up for success when it comes to embracing a heart healthy diet and lifestyle.

For more ideas on mindful eating, check out these articles from Heart & Stroke and Health Canada

These three healthy eating habits can go a long way to helping you reduce your risk for heart disease. Creating balanced meals that include a variety of different foods, especially those you make yourself with fresh ingredients, will give you the nutrients you need. Being more mindful of your eating environment and food choices will also support you in making positive choices for your heart health.  Together, these habits can help you live well and reduce your risk for heart disease.


Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.

© 2022, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

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