Up to 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented by simply living a healthy lifestyle and that includes healthy eating. Eating well and making good nutritional choices is one of the best weapons you have in the fight against heart disease, as well as many other chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Even small improvements can make a big difference. Follow our simple healthy eating steps to not only lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, but also improve your overall health.

Look out for the Heart Mark on foods to help you choose healthier options.


Eat more healthy foods such as:

  • Fruit and vegetables; enjoy a variety, either fresh or frozen and aim for at least 5 a day.
  • Beans and lentils for high quality carbohydrate, protein and fibre.
  • Low fat or fat free dairy foods such as milk or yoghurt for calcium, protein, minerals and vitamins.
  • High fibre wholegrain starchy foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta and barley, instead of refined cereals.
  • Lean and fresh protein like fish, eggs, skinless chicken, lean mince and ostrich meat instead of processed and fatty meats like polony, vienna’s, salami, sausages and sandwich ham.
  • Choose healthy fats found in sunflower, canola or olive oil, soft tub margarines, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, avocado and fish.
  • Choose foods high in omega 3 fats which are good for your heart and can help to improve cholesterol levels. Including fish, especially naturally oily fish such as sardines, pilchards, mackerel and salmon, which should be eaten at least twice a week.
    • Clean water and unsweetened tea or coffee

Enjoy your food but eat less

  • It’s good to enjoy food and share meals together but eating too much can lead to weight gain, increasing your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
  • Reduce your portion sizes of fatty, starchy and sugary foods if you are overweight.
  • Portion with caution. Try to portion your plate according to the ‘Plate Model’ where:
    • ½ of your plate consists of non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots etc.
    • ¼ of your plate consists of high fibre starches such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potato, butternut.
    • ¼ of your plate consists of lean protein such as grilled skinless chicken, fish, lean mince, ostrich meat, soya.

Eat less foods with added sugar, salt and bad fats

  • Cut down on unhealthy fats like saturated and trans fats which can raise cholesterol levels. These can be found in foods such as fatty and processed meats, chicken skin, butter, ghee, cream and hard cheeses, pies, pastries, biscuits, crackers, fast foods and deep-fried potato or slap chips.
  • Limit added sugars such as sweets, chocolates, and especially sugary drinks such as soda’s, fruit juices and flavoured water as they provide empty-kilojoules and contribute to weight gain.
  • Cut down on sodium and salt. A high salt intake is linked to high blood pressure. Reduce your salt intake to no more than 5g (1 teaspoon) of salt, from all sources, a day:
    • Reduce the salt added to your food during cooking and at the table.
    • Make use of fresh and dried herbs, spices, garlic or lemon juice to add flavour to your food, without adding extra salt or salty seasoning like chicken or BBQ spice.
    • Foods like packet soups, stock cubes, gravies, cheese, many breakfast cereals, breads, salty snacks, processed meats and fast foods are very high in salt, so should be used sparingly.
  • Limit alcohol. Avoid the harmful use of alcohol, and if you drink alcohol, drink in moderation which is no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men. One drink is a small glass of wine (120 ml), a can of beer (340 ml) or a tot of any spirits (25 ml).
    • Look out for the Heart Markon foods to help you choose healthier options. (link to Heart Mark page)


Our steps to eat better are based on the latest dietary guidelines. What does this mean?

Dietary guidelines are up-to-date summaries on how to eat to prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease and strokes. It is not based on opinion or popular trends. Guidelines are created after carefully reviewing the latest scientific research. Dietary guidelines focus more on food choices rather than just nutrients. Here are a few examples from around the globe:


Our registered dietitians are on hand to assist you by providing free information and support on heart health, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Call the Heart and Stroke Health Line, a shared call number, on 0860 1 HEART (0860 1 43278). Lines are open 8am-4pm Monday to Friday.

Please note: Unfortunately, we cannot give medical advice, such as guidance on medication, symptoms of cardiovascular conditions or information about heart transplants. Please contact a doctor if you have any concerns about your cardiovascular health. For detailed and personalised nutritional advice, contact a local private dietitian for a full assessment here.