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Nutrition after a heart attack
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Nutrition after a heart attack

Discover key information on heart-healthy eating and drinking.

Key takeaways

  • Having a healthy diet is an important part of looking after your heart. 
  • The Heart Foundation has put together 5 easy tips for eating a heart-healthy diet. 
  • It’s helpful to read the food label to select the best choice.  
  • It’s important to limit your alcohol consumption. 
Your doctor may have explained to you that it’s important to understand what might have caused your heart attack. It’s important to keep your heart healthy from now on, to avoid further problems.   

Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. Having a healthy diet is an important part of looking after your heart.  

Having a healthy diet has many benefits and will: 
 
  • Reduce your chances of having another heart attack 
  • Help reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure 
  • Help you feel healthier and have more energy 
  • Help you reach and stay at a healthy weight 
  • Reduce your chances of developing diabetes and help you control your diabetes. 

Heart healthy eating 

The Heart Foundation has put together 5 easy tips for eating a heart-healthy diet: 
 
  1. Vegetables and grains: Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains (brown rice, wholegrain breads and cereals). Aim for 5 vegetables and 2 fruit servings each day. 
  2. Proteins: Eat a variety of healthy protein-filled foods over the week. For example: eggs, lean chicken, fish and seafood, and legumes (such as beans and lentils). Eat red meat less often (1-3 times a week) and avoid processed and deli meats. 
  3. Dairy: Choose unflavoured and reduced-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese. 
  4. Fats: Choose healthy fats such as olives, avocados, nuts and seeds and cooking oils made from these. 
  5. Salt: Use herbs and spices to add flavour instead of salt. 
Following these tips is important for people living with a heart condition.  

Understanding fats  

Did you know that there are many different fats in the foods we eat? Some are healthier than others – in fact, some are important for your nutrition!  

The Heart Foundation encourages you to replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats in your diet. 

To lower the amount of bad fats in your diet, limit or avoid eating: 
 
  • Biscuits, pastries, cakes and muffins  
  • Processed meat, such as ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, tinned meat, corned meat, pies  
  • Takeaway foods, such as hamburgers, pizza, hot chips, potato chips, Asian foods, pasta, fried chicken 
  • Packaged foods and snack foods, such as chips 
  • Sauces (especially creamy ones).  

What about salt? 

We all want to eat tasty food. Salt is fine in small amounts, but eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure. 

Aim to eat let than 5g of salt per day – that’s less than 1 teaspoon. Since 75% of the salt we eat is in processed or packaged foods, even foods like bread and pasta, salt should be replaced with tasty spices and only added minimally. 

The Heart Foundation’s 5-step healthy-heart eating guide is naturally low in salt.  

Portion sizes 

It’s also important to get the portions right when eating your meal.  

Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables or salad, a quarter of your plate with protein foods (around the size of the palm of your hand) and a quarter of your plate with carbohydrate foods – ideally wholegrains (such as rice, pasta, potatoes, corn). Healthy fats can be included too.  

Reading food labels  

It’s always healthiest to eat fresh foods. But it isn’t always possible in our busy lives. If you purchase pre-packaged foods, it’s helpful to read the food label to select the best choice.  

Here’s how: 
 
1. Find the nutrition information panel on the product – it will look like this: 
 
NUTRITION INFORMATION 
Servings per package: 8 
Serving size: 33g 
 
 
Per serving 
Per 100g 
Energy 
560kj 
1680kj 
Protein 
2.4g 
7.2g 
Fat 
 
 
- Total 
3.6g 
11.0g 
- Saturated 
1.3g 
4.1g 
Carbohydrate 
 
 
- Total 
10.1g 
30.3g 
- Sugars 
3.6g 
10.8g 
Dietary Fibre 
1.7g 
5.1g 
Sodium 
23mg 
70mg  
 
2. Check the ingredient list – it will look something like this: 
 
Wheat Flour, Sugar, Butter (Cream (From Milk), Salt), Vegetable Oil, Condensed Milk, Salt, Eggs, Baking Powder, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Antioxidant (E307B From Soy). 
 
Ingredients are always listed from the largest quantity to smallest. If the first 3 ingredients are fat, salt or sugar, the product is not a healthy choice for your heart.  

Sometimes nutrition panels use other names for fat, salt or added sugar such as: 
 
  • Fat – animal fat, vegetable oil, vegetable fat, copha, palm oil, coconut oil. 
  • Salt – sodium, monosodium glutamate, vegetable salt. 
  • Sugar – glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, sucrose. 
 
3. Use the per 100g column to compare different brands of similar products. You might find that one brand is healthier than another. 
 
4. Look at the nutrients listed on the label and choose the product that’s lowest in salt, saturated fat and sugar. Remember that salt is listed as ‘sodium’ on the label. 
 
5. Remember to look at all the nutrients, rather than making your choice based on any nutrient alone. 

What about alcohol?  

Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and other health problems.  

The Heart Foundation recommends that men and women drink less than two standard alcoholic drinks a day.  

If you also have other medical conditions, you may be advised to drink less than this, or even to stop drinking completely. Speak to your doctor about how much alcohol is safe for you. When you’re drinking, alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones.  

What is a standard drink? 

A standard drink is a can of mid-strength beer, a small glass of wine or a nip of spirits, such as these: 

Standard drinks guide

375ml – Mid-strength beer 3.5% alc vol 


100ml – Standard serve of red wine 13.5% alc vol 


250ml – Pre-mixed full-strength spirits 5% alc vol


30ml – High strength spirits 40% alc vol 

Note: the examples vary depending on the amount (mL) and alcoholic strength] 
 
 
Find out more about healthy eating

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