Want to eat heart healthfully, but don't quite know what staples you should keep in your home? Start stocking up on nutritious foods to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Having these items on hand will also make menu and meal preparation a snap!

We've created a grocery store walk-through to provide you with some hints and tips to choosing more healthful foods.

The Produce Section: Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Choose from a variety of the following foods to toss into your favorite family recipe:

  • Fresh seasonal fruits like bananas, berries, apples, grapes, pears, mangoes, plums, oranges, and grapefruit.
  • Dried fruits like apricots, dates, dried plums, raisins, and cranberries.
  • Fresh whole or pre-cut vegetables like yellow, green and red bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, kale, escarole, cauliflower, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, celery, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and many others
  • Dehydrated vegetables like corn, peas and carrots.
  • Sweet potatoes, yams, baking potatoes, red potatoes.
  • Fresh squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.

Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters

These foods contain heart-protective mono- and polyunsaturated fats and can compliment many recipes to enhance the nutritional value of the meal.

  • Assorted dry roasted, unsalted nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds) to add to recipes or trail mixes
  • Whole or ground flaxseeds
  • Natural or freshly ground peanut butter.
  • Almond, soy, walnut and other nut butters.
  • Dried fruit and nut mixes or trail mixes.

The Dairy Section: Dairy and Dairy Alternatives

The dairy section can be a tricky one; choose low-fat and nonfat dairy foods or dairy food alternatives on most occasions. Enjoy the variety of textures and tastes these convenience foods can add to recipes and snacks.

  • Nonfat or 1% milk or chocolate milk.
  • Soymilk (plain, unsweetened, vanilla, or chocolate)
  • Nonfat or 1% fat yogurt includes fruited, vanilla, or plain)
  • Nonfat or 1% fat cottage cheese, Kefir, sour cream.
  • Soy or rice-based yogurt and/or sour cream alternatives.
  • Nonfat or reduced-fat cheese and cheese alternatives (soy or rice-based) with 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
  • Nonfat half-and-half creamer
  • Omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Egg substitutes

Fats, Cooking Oils

These oils contain heart-protective mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Use these while cooking your favorite recipes

  • Assorted cooking oils such as olive, canola, peanut, and sesame
  • Nonfat cooking sprays
  • Oil replacements (e.g. pureed prunes, or applesauce)
  • Trans-free liquid or tub margarine
  • Use olive, canola, walnut, avocado or sesame oil and vinegar as salad dressing


Use these sweeteners when you need to add a bit of sweetness into your drinks or recipes.

  • Agave nectar
  • Sugar substitutes
  • Sugar-free or light maple syrups
  • Honey

Beans, Soups and other Canned Goods

Soaking and then preparing dried beans can be time-consuming and difficult for the novice cook. Canned varieties of beans, bean dishes, soups, bean and vegetable-based sauces are a much more convenient alternative.Be food label savvy and watch out for the sodium and fat content in these foods. Enjoy the many flavors and textures these foods can add to your menu.

  • Canned black, red or white kidney, soy, garbanzo and navy beans, lentils, split peas.
  • Bean-based side dishes or reduced fat and reduced sodium vegetarian chili.
  • Reduced-sodium soups containing the above-mentioned legumes or a variety of vegetables.
  • Reduced-sodium bouillon, soups or broth.
  • Reduced sodium canned vegetables.
  • Reduced sodium diced or whole tomatoes, tomato sauce or tomato paste.
  • Reduced sodium, canned in spring water tuna or salmon. Sardines canned in mustard.

Dressings, Sauces and Condiments

Make smart choices when adding dressings or sauces to your dish. Read labels and choose dressings low in sodium and fat.

  • Reduced fat salad dressings for salads or as a marinade
  • Assorted vinegars: rice, red wine, balsamic, apple cider or raspberry
  • Reduced-sodium ketchup
  • Assorted mustards (whole grain, honey, Dijon or yellow)
  • Reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • Reduced-fat or nonfat mayonnaise
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Chutneys, curry sauces, tomato-based sauces or toppings like salsa or marinara. Choose reduced-sodium varieties when available
  • Try fat free plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream

Breads, Crackers, Pastas, Cereals and other Grains

The foundation of a healthy diet begins with whole grains. These foods provide you with dietary fiber, B-vitamins, folic acid and a variety of other heart and health protective nutrients. Many boxed convenience foods are available in this group; just be aware of the amount of sodium per serving provided.

  • Whole grain (wheat, spelt, buckwheat, oat, etc.) breads, pitas, bagels, english muffins with 2.5 grams or more fiber per serving.
  • Baked whole grain trans-fat free crackers with 2.5 grams or more fiber per serving.
  • Whole grain (some with added flax, wheat germ or soy) cooked or ready-to-eat cereals with 3-5 grams or more dietary fiber per serving.
  • Whole wheat, spinach, red pepper, flax or buckwheat-based pastas.
  • Brown rice, wild rice and/or brown basmati rice.
  • Whole wheat or brown rice mixes or dried soup mixes with vegetables, lentils, dried beans or herbs.
  • Grains such as couscous, quinoa, bulgur, cracked wheat, barley, oat, or wheat berry.

Meat, Poultry, Fish and Meat Substitutes

Choose more fish, poultry and lean cuts of meat. Try to Increase your intake of plant sources of protein such as tofu or meatless protein options.

  • Skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts and tenders.
  • Skinless, white breast meat ground chicken or turkey. Whole rotisserie chickens ready to take home.
  • Pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat.
  • Lean ground beef such as ground round or ground sirloin .
  • Beef (look for words like “round”, “loin”, and choose lean cuts most often; the less marbling, the lower in fat).
  • Assorted fresh fish: Salmon, mackerel, tilapia, trout, herring, or tuna.
  • Luncheon meats reduced in fat and sodium.
  • Tofu (silken, firm, or extra-firm) , tempeh, miso, grilled or baked tofu.
  • Meatless (vegetable protein) luncheon meats and hot dogs (check sodium content if you are monitoring blood
  • Hummus, tabouleh and other bean and lentil-based salads and dips.

The Frozen Food Section

The frozen food section contains the largest variety of convenience foods available in the market today. As a health-conscious consumer you must be food label savvy as some can be quite unhealthful. Taking the extra time on the next few grocery visits to read labels will help save you a lot of food preparation and shopping time in the future. Choose frozen entree/meal/burrito/soup with no more than 600mg sodium and single serving food (vegetable, bread) with no more than 140mg sodium. Below are ideal convenience food choices for the health-conscious:

  • Mixed fruit and berries to add to cereal, desserts, and sauces (without added sugar).
  • Frozen vegetables and vegetable mixes with herbs, spices and sauces. Choose from a variety of low sodium ethnic cuisine mixed vegetable dishes like curried vegetables and brown rice, szechwan vegetables and rice, stir-fried vegetable mixes. You can add your own tofu, tempeh, chicken or lean beef to these mixes.
  • Bean and vegetable-based frozen soups.
  • Bean, chicken or vegetable and brown rice burritos.
  • Whole grain breads, bagels, waffles and pitas.
  • Single or family-sized light meals such as Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones, other reduced fat and sodium meal entrees.
  • Soy-based meatless burgers, ground meat, sausage patties or links.
  • For desserts, reduced or nonfat milk or soy-based ice creams or frozen yogurts.

Bulk Foods

Although not all items found in the bulk food section are necessarily ‘convenience’ foods, they can still fit well into a healthy eating plan. A benefit to these foods is that they contain little to no added sodium, fat and other preservatives. Here are some good choices:

  • Wheat germ, ground or milled flaxseed to top on yogurts, soups or add to your favorite baked good.
  • Dried beans, lentils, split peas, chili and soup mixes.
  • A variety of whole grains like couscous, quinoa, bulgur, whole grain pasta, rice and other side dishes.
  • Reduced fat granola.
  • Low-sodium, reduced fat trail mixes.
  • A variety of whole nuts and nut blends.
  • Peanuts to grind on your own.
  • Herbs and spices.

Prepared Foods

Grocery stores and markets around the world now have pre-cooked convenience foods available for purchase. Unfortunately almost all of them lack a Nutrition Facts panel, which provides calories, total fat, saturated fat, sodium, etc. Read the ingredients carefully to point out any high-fat, high-sodium contents. Ingredients are listed by weight, so those listed first make up the majority of the food. For example, if mayonnaise is the second ingredient in a tuna salad dish, you can bet the meal or entree is high in total fat and saturated fat. Use caution when choosing these foods and follow some hints and tips below:

  • Limit cream-based sauces and soups.
  • Limit entrees or meals with condiments like mayonnaise or sour cream already added on. See if it is available on the side for you to add with discretion.
  • Choose bean or vegetable-based meals, stews or soups with a clear sauce, marinade or broth.
  • Remove any visible fat or skin from beef, pork, lamb or poultry dishes.
  • Choose salads with dressing on the side; remove excess cheese, croutons, bacon bits.
  • A Choose bean-based salads like pasta and lentils, spinach and pine nuts, hummus, tabouleh, stuffed grape leaves.
  • Pick up a platter of sushi like California rolls to accompany a large salad.
  • Limit cheese-based dishes or remove excess if possible.
  • Choose whole grain buns, tortillas, bagels, pitas and pasta entrees. Take advantage of the salad and fruit bar and of fresh, homemade, broth-based soups.

For more information:

For more information on a heart-healthy diet plan, please contact the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program at 216.444.9353 (or toll-free at 800.223.2273, extension 49353) and we can schedule a nutrition consultation.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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