Fries or fruit? Ribeye or tuna steak? Soda or water?
Every time you decide what to eat, you either increase or decrease your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Let that inspire you to choose triglyceride-friendly meals.
“Changing the diet can have dramatic effects on triglyceride levels,” says Robert Bonow, MD, former president of the American Heart Association and professor of Medicine at Northwestern University. In fact, a healthy diet -- plus exercise and weight loss if you’re overweight -- can cut your triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%.
The meals below can help lower your triglycerides. You may need to adjust portion sizes to meet your calorie level.
Breakfasts That Protect Your Heart
Start the day off with healthy decisions. Choose one of these delicious breakfasts.
Cereal & Berry Bowl
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1/2 cup oatmeal with 1-2 Tbsp of chopped walnuts
Or 1 serving of cold cereal, with 5 or more grams of fiber and 8 or less grams of sugar
1 cup raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries on top
1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, or 1/4 cup egg substitutes
1 cup or more of diced tomatoes, spinach leaves, minced onion, and mushrooms
1 tsp trans-fat-free margarine or a small amount of olive oil
2 slices whole wheat toast
1 orange in sections or 1/4 cantaloupe on the side
1 cup low-fat or nonfat yogurt
1 cup high-fiber cereal
1 sliced banana, 1 cup mango, or 1 peach
A small handful of almonds on top
1 whole-grain bagel
1 oz sliced smoked salmon
1 Tbsp low-fat or nonfat cream cheese
Capers or fresh dill
1 cup melon cubes with any type of berry on the side
Lunches to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Attack
Here are some flavorful lunches you can pack, and a few you may even be able to buy.
Soup & Salad
1 cup vegetable, black bean, or lentil soup (or any low-fat or vegetarian soup)
5 whole-wheat crackers
2 cups salad made with dark greens, like spinach, mixed greens, or radicchio
1 cup of any combo of colorful, chopped veggies: broccoli, carrots, red bell peppers, sugar snap peas, snow peas, tomatoes
1 cup fruits: apples, grapes, kumquats, pears
1 Tbsp salad dressing made with olive oil or canola oil (or nonfat dressings)
Sandwich With Double Crunch
2 slices whole-wheat bread or 1 hamburger bun
2 oz tuna
1 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
Dill pickle relish or sugar-free sweet pickle relish
Top with thin slices of apple or pear for crunch (1 medium piece of fruit)
Add this crunchy side:
1 cup veggies like baby carrots, grape tomatoes, and red pepper strips mixed with fruit such as apple, grapes, or pear (with peel)
1 cup veggie stir-fry with 2 oz shrimp, chicken, or tofu (request olive or vegetable oil)
1/2 cup whole-wheat pasta or rice (brown or wild)
1 cup pineapple chunks
A Friendlier “Burger”
2 oz grilled chicken breast on whole-grain sandwich (with 1 Tbsp low-fat or nonfat mayo)
1 cup side salad
1 piece of fresh fruit
Super Suppers to Tackle Triglycerides
Keep it simple at night to make choices easy to follow.
3 oz skinless grilled or broiled chicken (breast or dark meat)
1 baked sweet potato, served with 1 tsp trans-fat-free margarine
1 cup steamed broccoli with red pepper rings
1/2 cup light ice cream, frozen yogurt, low-fat or nonfat pudding, with 1 tsp chopped pistachios
1 cup whole-wheat pasta or spaghetti squash
1 can of Italian diced tomatoes
1 cup or more of sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, peppers, or onions – veggies you like best
Add 3.5 oz. ground turkey breast, tofu, or crumbled meat substitute
Add basil, oregano, or rosemary, whichever flavor you prefer that night
1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, dry grated, reduced fat
Wine: 1 glass for women, 2 for men (Skip the alcohol if your triglycerides are over 200 mg/dL)
4 oz grilled or sauteed salmon or tuna steaks
Or grilled or broiled shrimp kabobs
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup steamed asparagus with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup wheat couscous with mushroom broth and sliced scallions
1 cup roasted tomatoes
Vegetarian Night for Meat Lovers
1 (8 inch) corn tortillas
1/3 cup refried beans (fat-free or vegetarian)
2 Tbsp salsa
1 oz low-fat or fat-free Mexican cheese
1/2 cup slices of avocado
2 oz crumbled veggie sausage or meat substitute
Beer: 1 glass for women, 2 for men (no alcohol if your triglycerides are over 200 mg/dL)
Putting Together Your Own Meals
Fit in with your favorite meals by following these basics to lower your triglycerides.
- Plan for a “moderate” amount of whole-grain carbohydrates. Use portion sizes on packages as a guide. Another way to estimate a healthy amount is to visually divide your plate into 4 equal parts. Fill half of it with fruits and vegetables, and fill a quarter of it with a whole grain. Fill the last quarter with a low-fat protein.
- Limit “white” carbs and sugars. Keep foods made with white flour, desserts, candy, juices, and fruit drinks to a minimum.
- Serve healthy fats because they can help lower your triglyceride levels. They are the unsaturated fats, especially omega-3s found in fatty fish, flaxseed, canola oil, and walnuts.
- Don’t keep around tempting, unhealthy fats -- saturated fats found in red meat and baked goods and trans fats found in some packaged foods. If a food label says hydrogenated oil, don’t even open the bag.
- Choose low-fat proteins, including chicken, fish, seafood, lean meats, and tofu.
- Pour low or nonfat milk and choose low or nonfat dairy -- yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese.
- Limit how much alcohol you have each day. That’s 1 drink if you’re female and 2 if you are male. But even a small amount of alcohol may raise triglycerides in some people, so ask your doctor what’s right for you.
Having trouble adapting to low-triglyceride meals? See your doctor or a dietitian for help. Together you can put together a healthy meal plan that will lower your triglyceride levels and help you lose weight if you need to.
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD