Skip to Content

A blueprint for healthy eating

Share This Story
A blueprint for healthy eating

For the first time, the American Heart Association has issued a blueprint for healthier eating.

A scientific statement released on October 26, 2016 translates nutrition recommendations into a healthy eating pattern. Today, our blog will talk about the new recommendations and what they mean for you.


What does the AHA recommend for healthier eating?

The scientific statement:

  • warns against fad diets, because they do not achieve long term weight loss or benefit heart health.
  • makes broad recommendations to fit people’s cultural, ethnic, and economic needs.
  • gives healthcare providers ideas to help people carry out and stick with healthier behaviors.

Here are the basic recommendations from the scientific statement:

A heart-healthy eating pattern highlights:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains 

It also includes:

  • Nonfat and low-fat dairy
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Non-tropical vegetable oils
  • Nuts 

And, a heart-healthy eating pattern limits:

  • Sodium
  • Sweets
  • Sugary drinks
  • Processed and red meats 

A key component of a heart-healthy lifestyle is being physically active.

The scientific statement recommends that most adults get:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity weekly, or
  • a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise 

Note: For adults who would benefit from lowering LDL cholesterol or blood pressure, the 2013 Lifestyle Guidelines recommend 3-4 sessions of 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week.


Figure 1. Dietary intakes compared with recommendations.

Percent of the US population ≥1 year of age who are below, at, or above each dietary goal or limit. Note that the center (0) line is the goal or limit. For most, those represented by the orange sections of the bars, shifting toward the center line will improve their eating pattern. Data sources: What We Eat in America, NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), 2007 to 2010, for average intakes by age-sex group. Healthy US-Style Food Patterns, which vary based on age, sex, and activity level, for recommended intakes and limits. From the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

What does this mean for you?

We know that Americans need to eat more of the good stuff. For example, more than 80 percent of Americans need to enjoy more veggies. And, we know that Americans need to watch for added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium in their food. That is because most of the calories in Americans’ diets come from (according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey):

  • Burgers
  • Sandwiches
  • Tacos
  • Desserts
  • Sweet snacks
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages

So, what can you do about it? Here are 5 tips to get you started:

  • Add color to your plate. By adding colorful fruits and vegetables to your meal, you are getting more nutrients, health benefits, flavor, and fun! For ideas on how to add more color to your life, check out the Add Color website.
  • Compare nutrition labels. Different brands and restaurant versions of the same kinds of foods can vary widely in nutrition content. Learn more about understanding food nutrition labels. And, use the Heart-Check Mark to help guide you!

  • Salty Six in AdultsWatch for the salty six. Six foods contribute the most sodium to the American diet.

    Make sure you are comparing nutrition labels to choose the foods with the lowest amount of sodium per serving:
    • Breads and rolls
    • Cold cuts and cured meats
    • Pizza
    • Poultry
    • Soup
    • Sandwiches


How will this new blueprint for healthier eating impact your food choices?

Share your thoughts by commenting on this post!


You can find the manuscript online:

Van Horn, Linda, Jo Ann S. Carson, Lawrence J. Appel, Lora E. Burke, Christina Economos, Wahida Karmally, Kristie Lancaster, Alice H. Lichtenstein, Rachel K. Johnson, Randal J. Thomas, Miriam Vos, Judith Wylie-Rosett and Penny Kris-Etherton. Recommended Dietary Pattern to Achieve Adherence to the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology (AHA/ACC) Guidelines: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association