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Sharing food is an enjoyable and important part of Kiwi life

Taking steps to eat and drink the right things is a great way to manage your risk factors, look after your heart health and health in general. Healthy eating is not all about ‘cutting out’ food. It involves eating a balanced diet, including more healthy foods and choosing healthier alternatives. Choosing and preparing meals is often a family affair.

So if you are planning to take steps to make changes to what you eat and drink, involve the whole family – they will reap the benefits too.

The benefits of heart healthy eating

There is strong evidence to show that following a heart healthy eating pattern can help to:

  • Improve your blood cholesterol;
  • Lower your blood pressure;
  • Reduce your risk of blood clotting;
  • Reduce your weight and/or help you to maintain a healthy weight;
  • Maintain good control of your blood sugar /diabetes.

The correct balance of foods will also complement any medicines that have been prescribed to you by your doctor.


Develop healthy meal planner with my family

Taking steps to change what you eat and drink

Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start making changes to what you eat and drink. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Get the free Healthy Heart food guide poster
Get our free Healthy Heart Food guide resource – The Healthy Heart image shows the proportions of food types to eat over a day in order to look after your heart.
Get the free food portions guide poster
Get our free food portions guide – When it comes to what you eat, size really does matter and yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Watching your portion size is a key factor in helping to prevent weight gain.
Think about what you eat over a day
If you want to get a clearer picture of what you are eating and drinking during the course of a day, keep a food diary. Record everything you eat and drink for a few days. Be honest, write everything down – this is a tool to help you make changes.
How does what you eat and drink compare with the Healthy Heart?
Can you identify some simple steps towards healthier eating that you might like to take? Not sure where to start? Here are ideas for simple steps that you might like to take.
Set some realistic achievable goals
As with all lifestyle changes it helps to start slowly, change the simple things first and try one or two changes at a time. Learn more about goal setting

A few pointers about portions

People are often confused about the amount that they need to eat. Here are some pointers:

  • Eat the right amount to feel satisfied, but not full. Once you’re full, you’ve overdone it.
  • Take time to enjoy your food – your body needs 20 minutes or so to recognise you’ve eaten enough.
  • Eat three meals a day so you don’t get hungry and end up over-eating.
  • The size of the palm of your hand is a good size for meat and chicken.
  • When eating potatoes, kumara or other starchy vegetables keep them to the size of a tightly closed fist at a meal.
  • Make half your plate ‘eat most’ vegetables.

Get our free food portions guide

Improving cholesterol levels and blood pressure

If you want to improve your cholesterol levels and blood pressure there are certain changes to what you what you eat and drink that are particularly helpful.

How do I reduce LDL-cholesterol?
  • Cut down on saturated fats (fats that are hard at room temperature) mainly found in meat and dairy products, for example butter, as well as in coconut or palm oil;
  • Eat small amounts of food containing healthy oils, for example plant oils, avocados, oils, nuts and seeds;
  • Include margarines with added plant sterols.
  • Eat more servings of fibre-rich foods, for example fruit and vegetables, oats, dried peas and beans, wholegrains and high-fibre cereals.
How do I increase HDL-cholesterol and reduce triglycerides?
  • Eat oily fish such as tuna, deep sea dory, warehou, salmon, sardines or eel;
  • Choose wholegrain and fibre-rich foods instead of sugary and refined varieties;
  • Limit alcohol intake.


Drinking alcohol comes with risks to health, and not drinking alcohol is a healthy choice. If you drink alcohol it’s important to keep within recommended guidelines whether you drink everyday, once or twice a week or just occasionally.

Benefits of cutting back on drinking alcohol

There are many benefits of cutting back on your drinking, here are just a few:

  • Alcohol is high in calories so, if you are trying to lose weight, reducing your alcohol intake in conjunction with eating a heart healthy diet and regular physical activity could help you reach your goal;
  • Limiting alcohol can help to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels;
  • It may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety;
  • Drinking less will also be better for your wallet!
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Talk to my health professional about alcohol

Want to cut back on your drinking?
If you are concerned about your own, or a loved one’s, drinking, and would like tips on easing up or accessing support visit

I’ve heard alcohol is good for the heart – is that true?

Continue the journey

Discover the benefits of exercise following a heart attack
Read more
Making it a habit
Discover how to maintain new healthy lifestyle changes
Read more

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