decrease with every decade. “If you are physically active, you have a little more flexibility in terms of what you eat.”
And when balancing how much and what you eat, report co-author Maya Vadiveloo says, “the goal is to make sure all of those calories count and that you’re consuming nutrient-dense foods.”
You can still enjoy foods you love
Americans’ eating habits have changed, Vadiveloo, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston shares. “Decades ago, people would eat out, and it would be a treat.” People might have set aside thinking about their health.
Now, people can choose from meal delivery kits and prepared foods at grocery stores as well as fast-food, fast-casual and sit-down restaurants, she says. “It’s much more of a regular part of almost every person’s dietary pattern.” And people need to think about what they’re eating no matter where they are.
But heart-healthy eating habits shouldn’t be seen as punitive.
“You can eat what you enjoy,” Lichtenstein says. But sometimes, you just have to choose “a little more carefully, consider frequency and adjust serving sizes.”
The new guidance emphasizes the importance of incorporating food and nutrition education into schools, starting at an early age, Lichtenstein said. “This will ensure children have the basic facts and can draw on these as they develop into independent adults, making their own choices.”
Meanwhile, progress can happen individually, one small step at a time.
For example, Lichtenstein says, someone who regularly eats presweetened full-fat yogurt can identify fat-free or low-fat varieties containing less sugar. Someone who regularly eats crackers can shift to varieties made with whole grains and less sodium. Or someone might halve their portions of pasta or white rice at a meal and add an extra serving of vegetables.
Vadiveloo also suggests simple substitutions – such as replacing white sandwich bread with whole wheat. “Maybe one meal a week you’re using beans for your protein source, or maybe one time you’re switching a processed meat for fish.”
What you choose to eat is only one part of heart health, Lichtenstein concludes. Just keep in mind, “it’s not all of one thing and none of another. It’s the balance among your choices in terms of diet and, ultimately, lifestyle.”