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There are several components to making a positive change in your diet. One is for weight loss, and another is to gain health benefits. Usually, they go hand-in-hand. Choosing a simple menu - heart healthy diet is a way to accomplish both.

One of the biggest factors in having a healthy diet is to decrease consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol. Sometimes, simple changes and substitutions can have dramatic results, without making you feel as if you are missing anything.

Quick tips to cut saturated fats and cholesterol are to eat lean meats, such as poultry or fish in place of red meats. If you crave red meat, you can still have it occasionally, but swap it a few times a week for a vegetarian option.

Another easy way to cut-down on saturated fat is to use low-fat or skim milk in place of whole milk or cream.

Stay away from any foods that have trans fats, or have "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredient list on the food label.

Solid fats, such as butter, lard or shortening are loaded up with unhealthy fats. Try substituting olive oil or canola oil instead.

As a whole, stick with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts, beans and lean meats. Fruits and vegetables with lots of color will give you an antioxidant benefit, along with the natural fiber. Nuts have healthy fats, so stick with those for snacks. Keep in mind though, that even though the fats are good ones, nuts should still be eaten in moderation.

Although fish also contains saturated fats, a little more is allowed for fish than meat because the benefits of the omega-3 fish oil offsets the dangers of saturated fats.

A healthy day's menu might look like this:

Breakfast:

1 c. steel cut oats (or oatmeal). Add 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts and cinnamon to taste.
1 c. skim milk or 1 c. low-fat plain yogurt 
1/2 blueberries or other berries.


Lunch:

1 c. black-bean chili
Spinach salad or other tossed salad with 2 tablespoons low-fat dressing
1 slice of whole grain toast
1 c. raw vegetables, such as broccoli or carrots
1 apple


Dinner

3 oz grilled salmon
1/2 c. steamed veggies
1/2 roasted potatoes
4 oz low-fat, sugar-free yogurt
1/2 c. sliced peaches


For a healthy snack, try a small handful of nuts, a piece of whole grain bread with 2 teaspoons of fruit-sweetened jelly, or a piece of fruit.

Use these guidelines for a simple menu heart healthy diet and you will be on your way to better health.

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