Heart Failure Nutrition: Six Tips to Get Started 

Are you looking for trusted heart failure nutrition information? Are you confused and overwhelmed by complicated diet plans? Look no further than this handy guide to heart failure nutrition.

Managing CHF takes work but it’s completely doable if you follow the steps listed below. And it’s worth it when the result is better energy, better health, and a better ability to do the things you love.

I created this guide to simplify things for you. Six tips for heart failure nutrition is a great summary of the nutrition basics that I will expand on throughout this blog. Print it out and put it where you can see it every day as a reminder. Give a copy to your friends and family.

1. EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! 
I’m sure you have heard this piece of advice before.  That’s because fruits and vegetables are some of the very healthiest foods you can eat. And most of us have room to fit more fruits and vegetables into our diets.  Fruits and vegetables are low in saturated fat–most have zero.  They are extremely low in sodium, with only a tiny bit of naturally occurring sodium. They are full of fiber and micronutrients that are good for your heart, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.  If you can buy them fresh, that’s great, but frozen foods are a perfectly acceptable alternative.  Just be sure to buy plain frozen vegetables without added salt and fat. If you buy canned goods, make sure they are low in sodium as most have sodium added in the canning process. 

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE!
The best way to do this is to eat what are commonly called whole foods.  These are foods in their natural state or as close to their natural state as possible.  If you prepare them, you have control over what is added.  You don’t have to be a chef or spend lots of time cooking.  A baked potato is much better for you than boxed mashed potatoes.  A piece of baked meat, fish, or tofu is much better than a bag of breaded nuggets. 

3. PUT AWAY THE SALTSHAKER 
Don’t add salt to your food when you prepare it and don’t put the saltshaker on the table.  It takes a few weeks to adjust, but you will be amazed at how much you enjoy food that isn’t dominated by a salty taste.  Use pepper, lemon, herbs, spices, and spice-based salt alternatives to make your food taste great. There are also great salt substitutes available that use potassium to replace all or part of the sodium.  See the articles on this blog for an in-depth look at salt substitutes and be sure you check with your physician before using them.   

4. READ ALL LABELS!
Canned foods and packaged foods can have a lot of sodium added. But, luckily, many of these foods have created low sodium versions.  When looking at labels, aim for less than 350mg of sodium per serving.  Look for low sodium versions of your favorite sauces, dressings, and gravies. Check foods like bread, cookies, and foods that don’t typically taste salty.  Many have more salt than you realize. 

5. SPEAK UP!
When eating at restaurants, ask for your food to be prepared without salt. If you can, call ahead to let them know you follow a low sodium diet.  If circumstances prevent this, order simple whole food dishes as these are easiest to prepare without sodium.  Skip the sauces or use them sparingly. Ask questions at the grocery store or anywhere you buy prepared food.  Your health is essential, you are spending your hard-earned money, and the staff is generally happy to help. 

6.  FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE
Heart failure nutrition is extremely important but it is just one piece of the puzzle.  Following all of your doctor’s advice will be key.   

This means that in addition to a heart failure diet you must: 

  • Take your medicine when you are supposed to 
  • Weigh yourself to track fluid gains or losses 
  • Start an approved exercise program tailored to your ability and fitness level 
  • Learn to track your sodium intake and stay in the recommended range 
  • Stick to the fluid restriction if prescribed. (Not everyone will be placed on a fluid restriction, but if you are, take it seriously.)  

I hope you found this guide helpful. For more information, see my article on the best diet for heart failure patients. Don’t forget the check out the rest of the articles on the blog and my heart healthy, low sodium recipes. And don’t forget to sign up for my free email list!

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