Healthy Eating Guidelines to Prevent Heart Disease

Posted: Nov 11, 2013

You can help prevent heart disease by following a healthy lifestyle:

  • be at a healthy body weight
  • eat a diet rich in whole grains and dietary fibre, vegetables and fruit and omega-3 fats
  • replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats and not with foods high in sugar
  • be physically active every day
  • don't smoke and avoid being around second hand smoke.

This fact sheet provides healthy eating guidelines to prevent heart disease. Refer to Additional Resources below for information on how to assess your weight and weight loss tips if you need to lose weight.

Steps You Can Take

1. Eat a variety of foods recommended in Canada's Food Guide and follow the suggested number of servings for your age in all the food groups.

2. Select your fat sources wisely

Choose foods that are lower in saturated fat. Examples include: 

  • Lean cuts of meat, such as beef or pork tenderloin, centre cut port loin, lean ground beef, pork or poultry, skinless fish and poultry
  • Skim, 1% or 2% milk and lower fat milk alternatives, including reduced or lower fat cheese with 20% or less milk fat (M.F.)
  • egumes (peas, beans and lentils)


Include small amounts of vegetable based fats or unsaturated fats (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats) in your diet. Examples include:

  • Canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, peanut and olive oil and salad dressing and mayonnaise made with unsaturated fats
  • Unsalted nuts and their butters (such as almond butter and unsalted peanuts and peanut butter)
  • Unsalted seeds
  • Soft, non-hydrogenated margarine made from unsaturated oils
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, Atlantic herring and trout. Aim for two servings /week. Fatty fish are good sources of omega-3 fats.

Avoid foods that are made with trans, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat. Examples to avoid are:

  • Fried foods, such as deep fried chicken nuggets and French fries
  • Frozen prepared foods such as meat pies, pizza and waffles
  • Snack foods such as potato chips, cookies, donuts and crackers made with hydrogenated oils
  • Margarine and vegetable shortening made with hydrogenated oils
  • Pastries, croissants and other baked goods made with hydrogenated oils.

3. Limit intake of sweetened food and beverages that can replace healthier foods

  • Substitute sweetened beverages such as sodas, speciality coffees and those labelled as drinks, cocktails or punches with water,  soda water or weak tea.
  • Snack on whole fruit or chopped vegetables instead of candies, chocolate, store bought cookies, cakes, pastries, donuts, pies, or ice cream.

4. Eat whole grains and food high in dietary fibre

  • Eat at least half of your grain products as whole grains. Examples include rolled oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa and whole grain breads, breakfast cereals and pasta.
  • Choose foods that are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre. Some examples include:
  • wheat bran, flax seeds and vegetables and fruit with the skins left on, oat bran, psyllium, barley, legumes (such as chick peas, red, black or pinto beans and lentils) and some whole grains, vegetables, fruit and flax seed.

5. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits

  • Aim for more than five vegetable and fruit servings each day.
  • Include vegetables and fruit at each meal and leave the skin on for added fibre.
  • At meals, make at least half your plate vegetables.
  • Choose vegetables and fruit for snacks and dessert.

6. Prepare foods using healthy cooking methods  such as baking, poaching, steaming, broiling, roasting and stir frying in small amounts of unsaturated oil or fat.

7. Read food labels carefully

  • Use the food label to choose products lower in saturated and trans fat.
  • At restaurants, or when ordering take-out food, ask your server how foods are prepared so you can request changes if needed.

8. Use low fat cooking methods such as: baking, steaming, roasting and stir frying in small amounts of oil and fat.