Heart Smart Substitutions

By Jennifer Carland, RD, CDN

February is National Heart Health Month. Take care of your heart by making some simple substitutions on your plate!

Butter is high in saturated fats. These fats are unhealthy, and should be limited.

Instead, try swapping butter for vegetable oils such as canola or olive oil, which are higher in mono/poly unsaturated fats. These are healthier fats that can protect your heart.


Substitute your dessert for fruit or a frozen fruit bar.

Many desserts, including ice cream, are high in sugar and unhealthy (saturated) fats. Alternatively, fruit is packed with nutrients and can still satisfy that sweet tooth.


Fried Chicken (and other fried foods), are especially high in fats as the oils become absorbed into the food as it cooks. Consuming fried foods too frequently can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity.Try other methods of cooking, including grilling, baking, or roasting.

French Fries are also usually deep fried, thus, higher in unhealthy fats.

If you enjoy potatoes, switch to a baked potato or mashed potatoes. You could also try other side dishes such as rice or extra vegetables.


Although salt is a necessary mineral for the body to function, too much salt can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and kidney damage. The maximum daily sodium intake for most people is 2300 mg (1 teaspoon).

Try seasoning your foods with herbs, spices, lemon juice or vinegar instead.


Whole milk contains more fat than low-fat milk. However, moderate amounts of fat are necessary for energy and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).The recommended daily amount of fat intake should only be about 20-35% of calories consumed. Try to stay within the limitations by consuming low-fat dairy products.

Snack Smarter!

Trade your bag of salty potato chips for a heart health snack like nuts and seeds. They are high in healthy fats, mono- and poly- unsaturated fats. These fats can lower your bad cholesterol while increasing your good cholesterol.

By making small substitutions to your diet, you can decrease your risk for heart disease. You can also protect your heart with physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting stress, and by quitting smoking. Discuss your options for physical activity with your doctor before starting any exercise program.