An Eating Plan for Healthy Americans

The American Heart Association Diet

This eating plan from the American Heart Association is based on the latest advice of medical and nutrition experts. The best way to help lower your blood cholesterol level is to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, control your weight and walk or do another physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. Our plan is based on these dietary guidelines:

This is an easy-to-follow guide to delicious eating. You don't have to calculate anything — and you don't have to give up your favorite foods.

How Can I Use This Plan?

This section lists the basic food groups. It gives you the number of servings per day from each food group, serving sizes and suggested food choices. It’s important to select a wide variety of foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol within each food group. We also list desserts, snacks and beverages.

Eating the recommended number of servings from each food group gives you enough protein, vitamins and minerals — nutrients that your body needs each day. Eat moderate amounts of foods from the meat, fish, poultry, egg and fat groups. You may choose more servings of foods from the other groups if you don’t need to lose weight or if you want to gain weight.

The secret to success is balance. If occasionally you indulge in a high-fat entrée for dinner, balance it with lower-fat foods such as steamed vegetables or a fruit for dessert. The same idea applies to high-fat or salty snacks. Eat small amounts, and balance them with low-fat, low-sodium foods, such as fruits and raw vegetables.

The American Heart Association suggests this plan for all healthy Americans and children older than age 2. Growing children and teenagers have special needs. They must get enough energy (calories) and nutrients each day. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding — or people who have a medical disorder such as diabetes — should talk to their healthcare provider, a registered dietitian, or a licensed dietitian or nutritionist about their special dietary needs.

Eating Plan Tips

To control the amount of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol as well as total fat you eat:

Eating Plan: Meat, Poultry and Fish

Meat, poultry and fish are high in protein, B vitamins, and iron and other minerals.

Servings per day

Serving size

A three-ounce portion of meat, poultry or fish equals:

Choose from:

Shopping and preparation tips

Note: Adults over age 50 should consume vitamin B12 from fortified foods or vitamin supplements to meet the recommended intake of 2.4 micrograms (mg) of vitamin B12 per day.

Eating Plan: Eggs

Eggs are high in protein, B vitamins, and iron and other minerals.

Servings per week

Because eggs have a high cholesterol content (213 mg per yolk), monitor your use of eggs as you try to limit your cholesterol intake to 300 mg or less per day.

Shopping and preparation tips

Eating Plan: Fruits and Vegetables

These foods are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber — low in fat, calories and sodium, and contain NO cholesterol.

Servings per day

Serving size

Choose from:

Shopping and preparation tips

Eating Plan: Milk Products

These are high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, niacin, riboflavin and vitamins A and D.

Servings per day

Serving size Choose from:

Milk products with 0–1% fat:

Low-fat cheeses: Nonfat or low-fat ice cream: Shopping and preparation tips Note: The servings per day of milk products are higher to reflect revised recommendations for calcium intake — 1,000 milligrams for all adults until age 50; 1,200 milligrams at age 50 and older. For vitamin D, the revised recommendations are 400 I.U.s (International Units) for everyone age 51 and older; 600 I.U.s for age 71 and older.

Breads, Cereals, Pasta and Starchy Vegetables

Breads, cereals, pasta and starchy vegetables are low in fat and cholesterol; high in B vitamins, iron and fiber.

Servings per day

Serving size Choose from:

Breads and rolls

Crackers and snacks Quick breads Hot or cold cereals Rice and pasta Starchy vegetables Soups Shopping and preparation tips Note: Revised recommendations for folate (vitamin B9) are 400 micrograms (mcg) for adults and 600 micrograms for pregnant women. Many breads, cereals, pasta and other grains are fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate.

Eating Plan: Fats and Oils

Some of these foods are high in vitamins A or E, but all are high in fat and calories.

Servings per day

Serving size Choose from: Almond, avocado and hazelnut oils are high in monounsaturated fat.

Shopping and preparation tips

Eating Plan: Desserts

Choose desserts low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. For a special treat, share a dessert portion with someone.

First choices (low in fat and saturated fat)

Special occasions only (higher in fat and calories)

Eating Plan: Snacks

Choose snacks from other food groups, such as:

Eating Plan: Beverages

First choices:

Choose fruit or vegetable juice (check sodium content), coffee, tea, plain or flavored mineral water, low-sodium broth and low-sodium bouillon.

Other choices:

Fruit punches, carbonated soft drinks

Alcoholic beverages — If you drink them, do so in moderation. Have no more than one drink per day (for women) or two drinks per day (for men) of wine, beer or liquor, and only when caloric limits allow. Here are the amounts to count as one drink (½ ounce pure alcohol):

If you don't drink, don't start!

SOURCE: American Heart Association