Fad diets are out. It’s your lifestyle habits that matter

Fad diets are out. It’s your lifestyle habits that matter

A full belly makes a happy heart, but your heart will be happier if you focus on sustaining long-term habits.

Heart-healthy eating starts with your eating patterns, according to the American Heart Association’s recent scientific statement, “2021 Dietary Guidance to Improve Cardiovascular Health.” That doesn’t mean giving up takeout or that five-minute meal kit from the grocery store altogether. The dietary guidance encourages people to adapt these habits into their lifestyle. The statement identifies 10 features of heart-healthy eating patterns — including guidance to combine a balanced diet with exercise; consume most nutrients through food over supplements; eat whole grains; reduce sodium, added sugar and alcohol intake; use non-tropical plant oils; and eat minimally processed, over ultra-processed, foods.

“What’s really important now is that people make modifications that can be sustainable in the long term,” said Alice Lichtenstein, director of Tufts University’s Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory and chair of the writing group for the AHA’s new statement. The statement’s writing group evaluated literature and devised 10 features of heart-healthy dietary patterns. The group also expanded on the guidance, recognizing the need for sustainability and societal challenges that can be obstacles to achieving proper nutrition.

Lichtenstein said eating behaviors have changed since the AHA last published a statement with dietary guidance 15 years ago. Previously, the main options were to eat out or dine in, but eating habits have been less consistent in recent years. There has been a trend — exacerbated by the pandemic — of more convenience food options, such as delivery, meal kits and premade meals.