One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of heart problems or to manage cardiac issues you already have is to eat a heart-healthy diet. This is a daunting idea for many people - after all, going on a diet sounds awful. However, the kinds of changes you need to make for a healthier heart aren't about going hungry or trying to get excited about lettuce. Instead, your heart will thank you if you make conscious, sustainable changes to the way you eat. Read on to find out what you can start doing to improve your health through what you eat.

Start planning your meals

It is easier to make healthy choices when you have prepared ahead of time. Your doctor or nutritionist has probably already made dietary recommendations to you such as cutting sodium and saturated fats and eating more lean protein and fruits and vegetables. It can be hard to follow this advice if you're out and about and get hungry - after all, French fries are readily available and fast. If you instead pack a few healthy snacks, like nuts and dried fruit, you won't give in to temptation.

The same goes for your meals overall. You can start to eat more healthy food if you make sure you have it on hand and know how to prepare it. Collect recipes and make detailed shopping lists so you'll eat well even when you're exhausted by a long day at work.

Another benefit of meal planning is that you can bring your menus in to appointments with health professionals you see. This can help you both identify where you're doing well and where you could improve.

Don't be too strict

You must follow recommendations from your doctor or nutritionist to see benefits to your heart health (if you don't have any advice from professionals yet, check out the American Heart Association's diet recommendations here). However, you don't have to be superhuman. Life happens, and sometimes it brings cupcakes for your child's birthday or a particularly appealing slice of pizza. If it's the exception and not the rule, eating something that isn't perfectly healthy won't ruin your lifestyle or rob you of the benefits of eating well the majority of the time. Being kind to yourself in this way can also help you maintain your willpower through the changes you need to make to your diet.

For more on eating heart-smart:

Tips for Wheat-Free Eating
Time-Restricted Eating May Help You Lose Weight
TV Content and Overeating: Are They Related?