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A healthy diet is important for people to promote, regain and sustain heart health.

Finding Balance with Heart Healthy Habits

The More You Know, the Less You Stress

The next few blogs in our series will be focused on new guidance and dietary suggestions from the American Heart Association (AHA). This week, we’re talking about dietary patterns, and we don’t just mean Taco Tuesdays or Friday Pizza Night. We want you thinking about how and why you choose the foods you do.

It’s common that other responsibilities like job hours, caretaking, or after school activities play a role in the food choices and habits of households. Therefore, it’s important to consider how life patterns can affect dietary patterns and, ultimately, heart health. Take, for example, a recent American habit, the loss of the regular family dinner. According to Dr. Ann Fishel of the Family Dinner Project, 70% of American families do not eat together regularly, a factor known to impact the cardiovascular health of teens.

So, what are dietary patterns? The American Heart Association defines dietary patterns as “the balance, variety, and combination of foods and beverages habitually consumed.” In other words, think beyond WHAT you eat. Ask yourself, “What are the rhythms and habits of my diet?”

How often you eat during the day

How frequently you eat certain foods

How many different types of foods you eat

And how those foods work together

Evidence-based eating patterns associated with low heart disease risk:

Adjust energy intake and expenditure to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight

Contain primarily fruits and vegetables

Are foods made with whole grains

Include healthy sources of protein (mostly plants, fish and seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and if meat or poultry are desired, lean cuts and unprocessed forms)

Include liquid plant oils

Are minimally processed foods or are low in added sugar or salt

Do not drink alcohol, do not start; if you choose to drink alcohol, limit the intake

Many of these principles are present in researched dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean style, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) style, Healthy US-Style, and healthy vegetarian diets.

But these eating patterns or food combinations are not just for adults struggling with heart disease. Research suggests that adhering to healthy eating patterns over a lifetime matters. Research even includes maternal-fetal nutrition. In fact, one study tracked children for 20 years and concluded that many dietary habits learned in childhood continue into adulthood.

Now, consider your habits and the habits of your household. Are your eating patterns heart-healthy? If not, what keeps them from being heart-healthy? Is there no time for cooking? No time for meal prep? Could you start by adding healthy food rather than subtracting? Take stock of your dietary patterns today for healthier hearts tomorrow!


2021 Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime


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